Wednesday, July 11
PITTSFIELD — It was supposed to be a secret.

But when the Boston Red Sox's multimillion-dollar pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is in town, word tends to get around.

Having expressed an interest in seeing America's earliest known official reference to his profession, Matsuzaka's handlers made arrangements to have Mayor James M. Ruberto show the 1791 document located in the Herman Melville Room at the Berkshire Athenaeum yesterday afternoon.

By the time he arrived at the Athenaeum's main entrance shortly after 3 p.m., about 30 people had gathered to catch a glimpse of the baseball phenomenon. Matsuzaka — donning a low-drawn ball cap, a T-shirt and shorts — was escorted into the building by two Pittsfield police officers. Three friends, his wife and infant son accompanied the 26-year-old Tokyo native on the visit.

Matsuzaka, whose English is limited, seemed interested in the original hand-written ordinance and the original book page containing the minutes that were hand-written during the annual town meeting in Pittsfield in September 1791.

The Pittsfield ordinance — banning the playing of baseball, cricket or any other games using a ball within 80 yards of the town meeting place — also seemed of interest to his wife.

Ruberto showed Matsuzaka the documents, explained their importance, and then presented him with gifts — two baseball caps with the 1791 date on them, two red T-shirts meant to be worn during the human baseball event Saturday at Wahconah Park, a set of the Art of the Game baseball cards and a replica of the historic document.

Matsuzaka seemed happy with the gifts.

"Thank you," he said in English.

Ruberto noted that Matsuzaka played golf yesterday morning at the Country Club of Pittsfield. The club president made him an honorary member, according to the mayor.

"I was born in Pittsfield, I've been mayor here for almost four years — and I'm not even an honorary member," he said, laughing. "So that's really something."

While Matsuzaka was at the club, there was an air of awe among employees and golfers.

Near the ninth green, assistant golf pro Michael Morschauser was teaching some youngsters how to putt when Matsuzaka sank his ball.

"The kids got real excited," Morschauser said. "He said, 'Hello,' and waved when he went by."

Six-year-old Jacob Goldstein, sporting a Red Sox hat and visiting with his grandparents from the San Francisco area, where Major League Baseball's All-Star game took place last night, watched as Matsuzaka cruised by in his golf cart. It was a lucky sighting for the youngster since Matsuzaka didn't make the All-Star team.

"I thought it was really great," he said. "It made me feel real good to see Daisuke Matsuzaka on the golf course." Jacob pronounced the pitcher's full name flawlessly.

"I feel like I want to be a professional athlete, too," he added.

Matsuzaka became an instant celebrity for Red Sox fans when he signed a $52 million deal in the offseason to join Boston from the Seibu Lions in Japan. The Sox also had to pay the Lions $51 million for him.

A superstar in his native country, he first received notice in America when he was named the most valuable player of the 2006 World Baseball Classic after leading Japan to the championship of the inaugural tournament.

Currently, he is 10-6 with a 3.84 earned-run average. He has pitched 119 2/3 innings, the most of any Boston pitcher this season, and has a team-high 123 strikeouts.

Matsuzaka has won three of his last five starts heading into the All-Star break, but lost his last start Sunday at Detroit. His best start this season was July 3 against Tampa Bay, in which he allowed no runs and just four hits in eight innings while striking out nine Devil Rays.