Six and a half years ago, I did something that probably seemed a little bit out of character for me. It was October 2014, and I had just finished my final season as a New York Yankee. After having spent nearly my entire life living one dream, I knew I needed to step into the next chapter of my life with a new passion.
So I did something that surprised a lot of people: I co-founded a digital media company with a small, trusted team.
We called it The Players’ Tribune.
The idea was simple. We wanted to build a platform for athletes, where they could tell their own stories in their own words.
Where they could really be themselves.
And there have already been so many moments over the years that have reaffirmed for me why The Players’ Tribune exists. Take A’ja Wilson getting real about race in America. Or Kevin Love opening up about his mental health. Or Ibtihaj Muhammad challenging the status quo for female athletes. These are all powerful stories that have left their mark on the sports world and beyond.
Another moment that stands out for me — it actually wasn’t a story we published. It was more of a personal experience: A few months after The Players’ Tribune launched, I went on a trip to Japan.
I traveled with my friend Hideki Matsui, and had such an unbelievable time.
First off let me just say: The baseball fandom in Japan is on a whole other level. I’m not exactly fluent in Japanese, but I had no problem understanding the universal language of signing baseballs.
“Jeter-san, please! Jeter-san!”
(To be fair, Hideki had more requests than me. I was only a welcome guest — he’s a real legend.)
But my favorite memory from that trip, honestly, is the time that we got to spend away from the spectacle — when I got to just hang out with Hideki in his element. We ate lunch with his parents. We shared stories. We walked around town.
We kind of had a “normal” day, you know what I mean?
I was teammates with Hideki for years — and I know as well as anyone what he could do on a baseball field. The guy could make 50,000 people lose their minds with one swing of the bat. He’s a superhero. But he’s also a person ... and that trip was such a different window into Hideki’s life.
I think in a lot of ways, the things that I loved about traveling in Japan mirrored the things that I love about baseball.
I love how baseball isn’t just a game; it’s a passport. It connects you to so many different people and languages and cultures. Japan is a world that, if not for my job as a baseball player, I might never have experienced. Friends like Hideki and his amazing family ... I probably never would have met them.
And I think that’s part of the central idea behind The Players’ Tribune.
When we launched this company, we decided on the slogan, “The Voice of the Game.” But we quickly learned that our mission goes deeper than that. This hasn’t been about highlighting just one voice — it’s been about having a conversation. First in English, and then in Portuguese, Italian, Chinese ... and in the case of Paul Pierce, in emojis.
And starting today, we get to have that conversation in Japanese, with the launch of The Players’ Tribune in Japan.
It’s exciting for me to watch us grow. We’ve taken a simple idea and turned it into a true platform — one that has allowed athletes the space to share just about any kind of story imaginable. From the momentous, to the heartbreaking, to the celebratory, and everything in between.
Whenever someone asks me what makes The Players’ Tribune unique, I always tell them the same thing: We let our content do the talking.
All you need in order to understand The Players’ Tribune’s mission is to read the first two sentences of Romelu Lukaku’s story about lifting his family out of poverty through his football dreams:
“I remember the exact moment I knew we were broke. I can still picture my mum at the refrigerator and the look on her face.”
Romelu is a global football star who speaks six languages. Unfortunately, Japanese isn’t one of them. I’m so proud that, starting today, you can read his story in his own words — along with the stories of so many other athletes, in their own words.
Our primary focus with TPT Japan, of course, will be local. Our mission is to serve as a trusted resource for Japanese athletes to connect with their fans, in any way they want, whether that’s essays, podcasts, videos, or on social media.
Our aim has never been to compete with traditional media — we know there will always be an essential place for journalists and reporters in the sports world. I personally have a deep respect for the job that they do. Our mission is simply to provide a different space for athletes to be themselves. To connect with fans on a more human level.
And six and a half years after we launched The Players’ Tribune, I still keep coming back to that same word.
People ask me all the time what I miss most about playing baseball. To be honest ... I don’t really miss being on the field. And I certainly don’t miss the grind of spring training, or road trips, or rehab. What I do miss sometimes, though, is the clubhouse. I miss the guys like Hideki — and all the other teammates who I shared so many memories with over the years.
In other words, I miss the human side of the game. I miss getting to know people from all over the world, and hearing their stories. That’s why I started The Players’ Tribune.
And that’s why we’re coming to Japan.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for having us.
It is our honor to be here.