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Take the elevator all the way down, make a hard right and walk along a concrete corridor deep in the bowels of Yankee Stadium. Down that hallway, just before the home clubhouse, there's a plain room with a small stage and lone podium. That's where the Yankees' press conferences are held.

That's not where the Yankees introduced Masahiro Tanaka on Tuesday.

No, this introduction was no press conference. At least, that's not all it was. In the stadium's brightly decorated Legends Club -- where some televisions showed Tanaka's name and others showed footage of him pitching in Japan -- the Yankees put on a global event. The press was invited, of course, but this was about something much larger.

In front of an international audience, the Yankees put pinstripes on an international icon who's a superstar before throwing a single Major League pitch. When it came time for general manager Brian Cashman to speak, he immediately thought of the late owner George Steinbrenner.

"The Yankees obviously are about always trying to acquire the best talent, and a collection of talent that can compete for a championship," Cashman said. "But (Steinbrenner) also liked a lot of attention. And this certainly represents a lot of attention. This is Yankee big. This is Steinbrenner big."

With more than 200 credentialed reporters and photographers, it was the Yankees' largest press conference since Hideki Matsui was introduced in Times Square in 2003. Tanaka received a cap and a No. 19 jersey and introduced himself in halting, methodical English.

"My name is Masahiro Tanaka," he said. "I am very happy to be Yankee."

Truth is, no introduction was necessary. Not for a 25-year-old who went undefeated in Japan last season and signed a seven-year, $155-million contract this winter. His contract is the largest ever for an international player with no Major League experience.

He is married to a Japanese pop star. He chartered a private jet for Tuesday night's trip from Japan to America. Beyond baseball questions, he was asked Tuesday to describe the first meal he had upon arrival in New York (it was grocery store sushi, by the way).

Tanaka is an icon already -- part all-star, part rock star -- and now he's playing for baseball's most well-known franchise in the world's largest media market.

"He doesn't want to transition in," Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said. "He wants to be put right on the big stage in the big games and test himself. He's been there before in Japan, and he's going to do great here."

Already, the attention is such that Cashman has worked to keep expectations in check. He went on ESPN radio this last week to say that Tanaka is expected to be no better than a No. 3 starter, a comment that Cashman admitted was all about adjusting popular perception.

"There's growing pains," Cashman explained. "I just want to make sure to remind everybody, even though they might not want to hear it. . . . We could be getting more than a three. Maybe it's a two. Maybe it's even a one at some point."

Certainly Tanaka is touted as a top-of-the-rotation mainstay. Signing Tanaka forced the Yankees to break away from their goal of trimming payroll beneath $189 million.

"I can still be a math geek and still have the desire to win," Steinbrenner said. "I've been saying this for two years; we know what our fans expect."

Yankees president Randy Levine assured that the Tanaka signing was strictly a baseball move, based on glowing scouting reports and not dreams of international attention. But Steinbrenner has also said in the past that part of what Yankees fans expect is to see a team of marquee names.

This is a superstar town, and it has its latest global icon.

"I've heard that this place is, it can be very harsh to you at times," Tanaka said. "Just wanted to put myself through this environment and see where I can get to with my ability."

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