While Matt Murton has been alone in the batter's box during his record-setting first season in Japanese baseball, the Hanshin Tigers outfielder is determined to spread the love.
After getting hits No. 211, 212 and 213 at Jingu Stadium earlier this week, breaking Ichiro's NPB single-season mark of 210 set over 130 games back in 1994, the 29-year-old Florida native wanted to give credit where it was due.
"I definitely worked on some things at the end of last year in Colorado," said Murton. "(Rockies hitting coach) Don Baylor and our first-base coach, Glenallen Hill, they did a lot to help me work on some stuff. Also, Rene Lachemann, my minor-league coach last year (at Colorado Springs), and they're not the only ones."
Murton, who has spent much of his career in Triple-A, also credited his Hanshin coaches as well as the quality of play and atmosphere around his current club with helping him achieve his milestone.
"This is important to me and I'd be making a mistake if I didn't mention the fact that (Hanshin coaches Yutaka) Wada-san and (Atsushi) Kataoka-san have been there for me this year," continued Murton, a first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2003, who also played in the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A's organizations.
"Yeah, my previous coaches made some adjustments, but these guys have helped keep me on track all year. That's not easy to do. We had a hiccup there for a few weeks, but they helped get me back on track and they've helped me with the little things to make sure I stayed where I needed to be.
"The biggest thing is just coming here and getting the opportunity to play in a competitive environment with good players and you're expected to win, you're held to a high standard.
"In the minor leagues you don't get that very often. This is much more like a major-league environment and I think it brings the best out of the players."
Murton also credited his faith and his family for making him the man he is today, especially his father.
"Dad always said work hard, because if you didn't he was gonna kick your butt," Murton recalled with a smile. "He's an old football coach, so if you're gonna do it, you better do it the right way. That's what he always used to say."
Even with all that support, Murton said the pressure was building as he got closer to Ichiro's record. He was grateful when he knocked No. 211 back up the middle against the Yakult Swallows last Tuesday night.
"I just kept praying for peace when I got close because there's no doubt that you start to feel it a little bit," Murton said. "I can't explain it, but once I got it I just relaxed and I felt like myself again."