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Daisuke: I want to play at least 10 more years in the U.S.

03.09.10 at 4:51 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Daisuke Matsuzaka has gone exactly halfway through his six-year contract. He is 29 years old. And the pitcher has been a professional baseball player now for 10 seasons.

Tuesday morning, he decided to take stock of his past and talk of his future.

“I think both personally and from a family standpoint we’re all enjoying our lives over here in the U.S., and if at all possible I would like to play over here as long as I can,” Matsuzaka said through translator Masa Hoshino. “I guess in the very least I hope that I can play for at least another 10 years here in the U.S. Yeah, 10 years is a long time and it’s tough to imagine what it’s going to be like that far out, but at the same time, when I’m 40, or older than 40, I want to still be able to pitch.”

Then, after a pause, came a term that needed no translation.

Nolan Ryan.”

As it turns out, just before entering high school Matsuzaka got hold of the book, “Nolan Ryan’s Pitching Bible” thanks to some older teammates who had an infatuation with the major leagues. It not only changed his approach in the short term, but it helped mold the long-term goals he carries with him today.

“I read about him growing up and I saw that he worked very hard to stay in good shape, even as he got older,” said Matsuzaka of Ryan, whom the Red Sox pitcher has yet to meet. “Like him, if I could play until I was 44 or 45 that would be great.

“That book, ‘Nolan Ryan’s Pitcher’s Bible,’ left a big impression on me and it was right around then when I started weight training and working on my fitness.”

But even as the book opened up Matsuzaka’s eyes as a teenager, it wasn’t until recently that he realized what it took to truly emulate Ryan and pitch into his 40s.

“Compared to around the time I first became a professional ballplayer, my opinion has changed and developed,” said Matsuzaka regarding the difficulty that comes with having a lengthy career. “I think as I get further along and experience more years as a pitcher I’ve come to see that. It’s not enough to be healthy, but you have to healthy and perform well. You have to continue to perform at a high level and produce those results as a team. The further I get along I see that it’s difficult to sustain that over a long period of time.”

One thing Matsuzaka has going for him is the certainty of what to expect, which when he came over from Japan prior to the 2007 was something that the pitcher didn’t possess. And it is a big reason why he has no problem looking forward another 10 years in the United States.

“I think both in baseball and away from the field I knew that a lot of things were going to be new to me and things wouldn’t as smoothly as they did in Japan, so I did expect a fair amount of difficulties when I first came over here so that hasn’t been a surprise,” Matsuzaka said. “But at the same time it hasn’t been as much stress as I thought it would be.

“Sometimes feel like, ‘Wow, it’s already my fourth year, but at the same time I still have three years left in my contract.’ So even though sometimes I feel like, ‘Oh my goodness, three years have gone by already,’ I still feel at the same time there’s three years ahead of me as well.”

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