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Since 2001, Ichiro Suzuki has wowed American baseball fans with his athletic ability both on the field and at the plate. In 2019, we may have seen the end of one of the most prolific hitters of the 21st Century.
The Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics had another regular season game in Tokyo while everyone else is playing a Spring Training game. Transitioning to an office role last season for the Mariners, Ichiro wanted to go out on his own terms. He re-signed with the team to a minor league deal this season, hoping to get one more moment to shine in a sport considered America’s Pastime.
Early this morning, Ichiro went 0-for-4, each at-bat to a standing ovation from the Tokyo Dome crowd. In a game that was tied, Ichiro had a chance to give the Mariners the lead in the eighth but could not beat out a slow roller to short. He went out to right field to start the bottom of the eighth and Scott Servais pulled him out of the game. He left to a standing ovation.
In the end, Ichiro Suzuki leaves behind a legacy that may never be duplicated. In 18+ years with the Mariners, Yankees and Marlins, Ichiro has a .311/.355/.402 slash line with 509 stolen bases and 117 home runs in over 2,600 games played. He has over 4,367 hits in baseball, 3089 in the MLB and 1,278 in Japan.
Ichiro won the Gold Glove Award and was elected to the All-Star Game for ten straight seasons to start his career. He won the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards for the American League in his 2001 debut. That season he slashed .350/.381/.457 with 56 stolen bases and 242 hits. He became the single-season hits leader in 2004 with 262.
In the end, Ichiro will become the first Japanese-born player to enter the MLB Hall of Fame. He leaves behind a legacy shared with one other player, not in the Hall of Fame at the moment.
Ichiro opened the door for Japanese players like Yusei Kikuchi, who idolized him when he grew up. When Ichiro left the field today, the 27-year-old, making his MLB debut this season, hugged Ichiro and cried in the dugout.
Ichiro wanted to continue playing until he was 50, but with a young Mariners team on the rise, the 45-year-old knew his time in the MLB was coming to an end. In the middle of the Steroid Era, Ichiro was a symbol of a true clean player. A record holder in multiple categories, Ichiro’s legacy will not be forgotten.