Sports

Mathieson a Giant in Japan

Scott Mathieson, who pitched the past two seasons at the AAA level with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the top affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, is off to Japan, after signing with the Yomiuri Giants. - Digital Photographic Imaging/IronPigs Baseball
Scott Mathieson, who pitched the past two seasons at the AAA level with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the top affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, is off to Japan, after signing with the Yomiuri Giants.
— image credit: Digital Photographic Imaging/IronPigs Baseball

Like most athletes, Scott Mathieson doesn’t want to look back when his career is done and wonder what might have been.

“One thing I have always gone by is I never want to have regrets,” he said.

“That is what my dad told me when I first left.

“I don’t want to look back and say what could have been.”

Mathieson, who now calls Florida home, was visiting Langley the past few weeks.

He left for Florida on Tuesday, along with his wife, but his destination after that will be even further away: Japan.

Mathieson, who turns 28 next month, inked a two-year contract with Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball, the top level of professional baseball in Japan.

A product of the powerhouse Langley Blaze baseball program — which was founded and is still run by his father, Doug Mathieson — he was a Major League draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies, who selected the right-handed pitcher in the 17th round of the 2002 draft.

Mathieson has spent the past 10 seasons in the Phillies organization.

But the Giants were keen on landing him, purchasing his rights from the Phillies.

The team paid just under $900,000 just to get Philadelphia to release him and then signed him to a two-year contract: the first year guaranteed and a club option on year two.

He said it was flattering to have a team pony up that kind of money just to get him.

While Mathieson declined to share the dollar amount of new contract, he did say it is well over twice what he would have made at the Major League level.

Mathieson progressed through the Philadelphia organization — he was named the Phillies fourth-best prospect and top right-handed pitching prospect in 2005 and in 2010 was the organization's pitcher of the year — but was felled by injuries the next season.

The following year, in June 2006, he got his first taste of Major League action, going 1-4 in eight starts.

But that September, Mathieson suffered an elbow injury, which required Tommy John ligament reconstruction surgery. His comeback in 2007 was also hampered by inflammation of the ulnar nerve.

He did work his way back, and made a couple of brief appearances out of Philadelphia’s bullpen in both 2010 and 2011.

The Giants originally expressed interest through Mathieson’s agent in 2010.

“Really, it was just an opportunity to pitch,” he said about the decision to go overseas for the next part of his career.

“The last couple of years I have been hoping for more of an opportunity to pitch at the Major League level and I didn’t really get it.”

He also talked to some other players who have gone over to Japan — including Langley’s Aaron Guiel — and they all had positive remarks of their own experiences.

“The whole change is going to be pretty neat and it is going to be a heck of an experience,” Mathieson said, adding he has been trying to learn some of the language.

“I am really just going in blind, trying to go in with an open mind and accept it for whatever it is.”

The baseball season runs the same time as MLB, but with 144 games instead of 162.

Spring training begins in early February, and Mathieson’s wife will join him in Tokyo in April.

He didn’t rule out staying in Japan longer than his contract, but did indicate he would love to finish his career in MLB.

One thing remains clear: Mathieson is doing what he loves.

“I love to play; if I had to work a regular job, I would be paying to play in a men’s league,” he said.

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