Waiting for Godzilla Slugger

Hideki Matsui makes his dramatic debut in Gotham
Hideki Matsui makes his dramatic debut in Gotham
January 27, 2003

OPEN ON:

EXT. TIMES SQUARE--JANUARY 14, 2003 A sense of anticipation fills New York City.

INT. TIMES SQUARE HOTEL BALLROOM At least a hundred REPORTERS are milling in the room.

NARRATOR (VOICEOVER) They are here for a press conference convened by the New York Yankees to introduce 28-year-old outfielder Hideki (Godzilla) Matsui, formerly of Tokyo's Yomiuri Giants, the most popular and storied team in Japanese baseball.

The Yankees' assistant media relations director JASON ZILLO enters and suddenly stops in his tracks as the reporters turn toward him.

NARRATOR (V.O.) The press conference is not scheduled to begin for another two and a half hours.

CAMERA FINDS an intense, well-dressed man moving among the press, talking rapidly. This is ARN TELLEM, Matsui's agent, working the room.

TELLEM t is Japan's Michael Jordan. He is a national treasure, an icon, their greatest athlete, and he played for their most famous team.

SCREEN WAVES INDICATE FLASHBACK to a young Matsui walloping a tremendous home run for his high school team in Kanazawa, Japan.

CLOSEUP of a clip from the local newspaper. The translation scrolls across the bottom of the screen: Matsui hits home runs the way Godzilla would hit them.

NARRATOR (V.O.) The nickname, to Matsui's delight, stuck.

TIGHT ON MATSUI, smiling.

MATSUI (laughing) Godzilla is a very strong creature, but he also has a good heart. And my face looks like Godzilla's.

Matsui makes a face INTO CAMERA.

MATSUI (continuing) My face is scary.

GO TO: FREEZE FRAME Techno music plays as a graphic flashes Matsui's numbers over his scary face:

AGE: 28 HEIGHT: 6'2" WEIGHT: 234 PRO SEASONS: 10 HOME RUNS: 332, including 50 in 2002 CONSECUTIVE GAMES PLAYED: 1,250 LEAGUE MVP AWARDS: 3

TIGHT ON MATSUI smiling again as the techno music segues to "Ken Burns style" tinkling piano.

MATSUI The ideal ballplayer is Babe Ruth.

DISSOLVE TO: OLD PHOTOGRAPH of Babe Ruth surrounded by smiling kids.

MATSUI (V.O.) I want to be that kind of ballplayer, to give back to the baseball fans. I want to stand in the same batter's box where Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig stood.

CUT TO:

EXT. YANKEE STADIUM--DAY The CAMERA PANS to the stadium scoreboard, which reads WELCOME TO THE 1999 american league championship series. In the stands sits a wide-eyed Matsui, with a friend, ISAO HIROOKA. They have flown to the U.S. to watch the Yankees play in the American League Championship Series. They'll also see the Mets play for the National League pennant.

HIROOKA I told him, 'You cannot just show up and buy a ticket.' So he called a broker. The broker said, 'Nine hundred dollars.' He said, 'O.K., I will buy two.' We flew 14 hours each way for three nights in New York. We saw two games, one at Yankee Stadium, one at Shea Stadium. The third day he said, 'Let's go to Cooperstown.' So we drove all the way to Cooperstown, looked at the Hall of Fame and drove back to New York.

MONTAGE--JAPANESE PLAYERS IN AMERICA Clips of Hideo Nomo, Ichiro Suzuki and Kazuhiro Sasaki.

NARRATOR (V.O.) Despite the recent success of some Japanese players in America, Matsui is the first Japanese power hitter and first player from the beloved Tokyo Giants to leave for the majors.

CUT TO:

INT. NARITA AIRPORT, TOKYO--DECEMBER 2002 Agent Tellem, retrieving his bags after a flight from the U.S. to visit Matsui, turns, looking stunned. CAMERA PANS to reveal that he is surrounded by some 300 Japanese journalists, strobes popping and TV lights blazing.

TELLEM (V.O.) I'm like Henry Kissinger now. Camera crews come by just to see my office.

CUT TO:

EXT. YANKEE STADIUM--JANUARY 10, 2003 Matsui walks onto the field for the first time, accompanied again by his buddy Hirooka. CAMERA PULLS BACK TO REVEAL a panoramic view of the empty ballpark. The wind whispers.

HIROOKA So. What do you think?

MATSUI (shaking his head in wonder) Wow. Wow.

The two begin to play catch.

MATSUI The Japanese ball is smaller. These seams are bigger.

CUT TO:

INT. A MANHATTAN PHOTO STUDIO--DAY Matsui is dressed in tailored shirt and slacks. Through the windows of the studio, the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty are visible.

MATSUI I was on the top in Japan. I can accept any result that happens. What I want to do is adjust to playing here in the major leagues. Only if you try can your dream come true.

CUT TO:

INT. MANHATTAN HOTEL ROOM--JANUARY 14 Matsui, surrounded by his agent and YANKEES STAFFERS, puts pen to a three-year, $21 million contract.

CUT TO:

INT. YANKEES TICKET OFFICE Phones ring incessantly as harried TEAM PRESIDENT RANDY LEVINE and CLUB EMPLOYEES field ticket requests.

LEVINE (V.O.) We're seeing a pretty good increase in ticket sales among Japanese fans. There have been strong expressions of interest among Japanese companies that want to sponsor stadium signage and other things. I'm also on the board of the New York City Convention and Visitors Bureau. They're already reporting interest from Japanese tour groups. I can't quantify it, but he's already had a tremendous impact.

CUT TO:

EXT. MANHATTAN STREET Tires squeal. A van filled with Japanese journalists chases a van containing Matsui, Yankees SECURITY PERSONNEL and a REAL ESTATE WOMAN who wants to show her new client apartments in midtown. The security men enlist the NYPD for help. The officers block a street after allowing Matsui's van through. ZOOM IN ON THE FRUSTRATED FACES of the journalists in the stopped van.

CUT TO:

INT. TIMES SQUARE HOTEL A dozen Yankees security officers await Matsui's arrival.

SECURITY OFFICER (into walkie-talkie) Saturday has entered the building.

Matsui and his entourage enter the hotel through a very private entrance.

NARRATOR (V.O.) The Yankees treat Matsui like a head of state. At least three security officers escort him at all times. They give Matsui the code name Saturday. Hirooka is given the code name Friday.

A smiling Matsui, now standing at the ballroom podium, pulls a Yankees cap over his mop of black hair. FAST ZOOM to the cap's band, showing the size: 7 3/4.

NARRATOR (V.O.) Stretched, the cap barely fits Godzilla. The Yankees will need to special order his regular size eight.

CAMERA PULLS BACK TO REVEAL 400 journalists now filling the ballroom.

NARRATOR (V.O.) Four television stations carry the press conference live in Japan, though it is two o'clock in the morning there. The Yankees plan to erect a tent during spring training to accommodate daily Matsui press conferences. During the season the team may employ an auxiliary locker room to serve the expected 50 Japanese journalists on the Matsui beat.

CAMERA FINDS Agent Tellem working the crowd.

TELLEM He's ready. The toughest part will be how his teammates react to questions every day about Matsui.

CAMERA FOLLOWS Matsui, still smiling, as he departs, flanked by his security.

EXT. TIMES SQUARE HOTEL The camera slowly pulls back on Times Square.

SECURITY OFFICER (crackling walkie-talkie voice) Saturday has left the building.

FADE TO BLACK

TO BE CONTINUED....

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)