03/21/08 6:18 AM ET
Matsuzaka-mania back in Japan
Dice-K gets rock star treatment in his native land
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Everywhere Matsuzaka goes, people follow. With one of their favorite sons back home, the Japanese media and fans aren't going to hide their excitement.
"There were all the camera flashes when he was walking out [of the airport], so I think he's very well respected here," said Sox third baseman Mike Lowell.
For Matsuzaka, coming back so soon after leaving for the Major Leagues is special.
"After I went to the U.S., I thought that perhaps one day I'd have the opportunity to pitch a game here in Japan, but I certainly didn't expect it to happen here in the second year," Matsuzaka said. "When we found out that we most likely would be coming to Japan part way through last season at that point I very strongly felt that I'd like to come back here as a World Series champion."
Matsuzaka will get the honor of pitching Opening Day at Tokyo Dome against the A's on Tuesday. Until then, he can relish soaking in the comforts of home.
Tuesday's game, scheduled to begin at 6:05 a.m. ET, can be seen live on MLB.TV
The only downside for Matsuzaka is that he can't be with his immediate family. Tomoyo Matsuzaka delivered the couple its second child, a son, in the United States last week.
"It was not easy leaving my newborn son behind and I certainly felt some sadness and loneliness parting ways with him but my family was very supportive of me throughout this and they sent me off with very strong encouragement," Matsuzaka said.
Even when Matsuzaka isn't pitching, his teammates expect he will be in the limelight during this trip.
"His popularity with what we've seen, we only saw it getting off the plane last night but I think the magnitude of it we'll really get to see starting tomorrow with the first exhibition game," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "Leading into the opening night with Dice pitching, that's going to be a tremendous reception for him to have that opportunity to pitch the opening game of the entire season."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.