Ten years ago today, former Chicago Cubs outfielder Matt Murton etched his name into the Nippon Pro Baseball record books, tying Isao Harimoto and Yutaka Fukumoto for the fourth-longest hit streak in the league’s history, tallying a knock in his 30th consecutive contest.
Looking back at his time on the North Side, Murton arrived in the Cubs organization in 2004. He was part of the four-team transaction that brought Nomar Garciaparra to Chicago, and was, at the time, a Single-A outfielder. After spending that year with the Daytona Cubs, he started the 2005 season with the Double-A West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx and was called up along with the ill-fated Adam Greenberg on July 8 to replace the struggling Corey Patterson and Jason Dubois.
In his first taste of big league action, Murton had a .321/ .386/. 521 line in 160 at-bats. The following year, he was the team’s starting left-fielder and compiled a .297/. 365/. 444 line. Though he was arguably the Cubs’ best outfielder that year, the slugging was disappointing, leaving plenty of room for expensive new Cubs power hitters Cliff Floyd and Alfonso Soriano in 2007. Murton surfaced only briefly in 2008, and was shipped off to Oakland, along with Josh Donaldson and a couple of others, for Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden.
He didn’t play much in the big leagues the next two years, and was released by Colorado following the 2009 season. He ended up with the Hanshin Tigers and was an immediate success, following up a 214-hit campaign with an even better year in 2011.
“I think there are a few (major league) markets that present similar type feeling from a player’s perspective,” Murton said, noting that playing in Chicago has a similar vibe. “On a whole, it’s the love of the game, and the opportunity to compete in front of people who care.”
Murton is a graduate of Eagle Landings High School (Ft Lauderdale, FL) and of Georgia Tech, where he majored in business management and hit .360. He was chosen by the Boston Red Sox as a supplemental pick in the first round way back in 2003. He played with the Lowell (MA) Spinners and the Sarasota Red Sox before being sent to the Cubs.
Garciaparra didn’t pan out, and the trade to Oakland became notorious when Donaldson blossomed into a perennial MVP candidate. Murton played for six years in Hanshin, where his career had its ups and downs following that tremendous start.
Chicago Cubs: Matt Murton found stardom in his overseas career
It was his wife that convinced him that Japan was the right place. Murton hadn’t been so sure. Nonetheless, he persisted, and ultimately triumphed, and is well-remembered to Hanshin Tigers and Nippon Pro Baseball fans as one of ‘a handful of imports to impact his team in such a powerful way’.
Murton now works as an assistant in the Cubs front office, and with Grace Christian Academy in Nashville. It has been a wild ride. He even tried to make it back to the States professionally at one point.
“Culturally, you get a chance to engage something that is very unique and a lot can be learned. And it’s a place that as an American or a foreigner, there’s so many things that Japan offers, it’s a really cool experience. You love that experience, the time you spend there and you never want to shut the door on that.”
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