Ichiro Suzuki's greatest hit was proving he belonged

The greatest success of Ichiro Suzuki was to prove that he belonged

The greatest success of Ichiro Suzuki was to prove that he belonged

Associated Press
News May 4, 2018, 12:21 IST


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SEATTLE (AP) – Ichiro Suzuki's otherworldly talents left an early impression on Dave Niehaus, the voice of the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame.

During the first month of Suzuki in the Major Leagues in 2001, Niehaus narrated a Suzuki pitch from right field that caught Terrence Long at third base. In a way, Niehaus also described what Suzuki was about to bring to the majors for 18 seasons.

"I'm here to tell you, Ichiro threw something from Star Wars back there at third base," Niehaus said.

Suzuki was different to everything the Major Leagues had seen when he left Japan for Seattle, and he has become one of the most important figures in the history of baseball, and not only for his 3,089 hits, 10 Gold Gloves , numerous All-Star Games, record of hits of a single season and MVP award.

Suzuki carried the burden of an entire country in coming to America, and his success created the opportunity for the innumerable who followed him. Whether he wants to accept the label or not, Suzuki was a pioneer.

Suzuki and the Mariners announced on Thursday that their 2018 season was over. He is changing to a new role as special assistant to the president. You may never play another game in the majors. However, its influence and importance should not be underestimated.

"When I met Ichiro in Peoria, (Arizona), which is the first time I met him face to face, he came in and had more presence than any other baseball player I've met," he said. the general manager of Seattle, Jerry Dipoto. "And I've been doing this all my adult life, I've been in the game for about 30 years and I knew and played with and against all the greats of my life and I never met one like Ichiro"

Suzuki preceded Hideki Matsui, who had a stellar career with the New York Yankees, for two years. In the following years, players like Nori Aoki, Kosuke Fukudome and Kaz Matsui followed him. Now, of course, there is the two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani.

Everyone had the opportunity after Suzuki broke the stereotypes surrounding Japanese hitters.

Could I handle 162 games?

Could I handle Major League pitching? ?

Could I play every day in the gardens?

Eliminated those stigmas with an AL MVP award, 242 hits and a Gold Glove award in his rookie season. He was a catalyst for a team that won 116 record games and brought a new style to the majors while laying the groundwork for others to follow.

"Coming here and paving the way for a lot of Japanese players, what he and (Hideo) Nomo did, that's not an easy thing to do," said Oakland manager Bob Melvin, who led Suzuki for two seasons in Seattle. "Just look at the talent and you say it's easy to come and play like that, but it's not like that, so that was a challenge, if there's another challenge that comes before him, I would not be surprised if he could do it. . "

By the time Melvin arrived in Seattle in 2003, Suzuki had already established himself as a star.

"He's the most committed player I've ever had," Melvin recalled. "All his day, all his night, everything he thought about, was about the game the next day and be prepared for that, from the way he works to the routine he's in. It's about being prepared to play Major League baseball, so I've often said that he was the easiest guy I had to drive because all I had to do was tell him what time the game was and I knew he would be ready and committed. " 19659020] Retirement was not the word & # 39; R & # 39; used on Thursday to explain how and why Suzuki moved out of the field. But the reality was The reality of being 44 years old, not being able to constantly reach the 95 mph fastballs, being one step or two slower trying to beat an inner frame.

However, the idea of ​​playing again is another – perhaps final – challenge for Suzuki. Seated on the horizon is Seattle's season-opening series in Tokyo next season, and the possibility that Suzuki will shine again in its home country.

And would someone be surprised if he were in the field one more time?

"I want to be like a researcher or a student of the game, or maybe at this age what I can do is prepare myself, train and see what I can do and the work I do, see what happens to my body and my performance " Suzuki said. "Just see what happens, I want to continue doing that and be able to continue working and see what I can do."

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