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A few years ago, Ichiro Suzuki said his goal was to play major league baseball until he was 50. Well, that’s one baseball goal Ichiro won’t attain. Yesterday, March 21, 2019, the 45-year-old told the Mariners that today’s game would be his last. It was a homecoming of sorts for Ichiro, as the Mariners started the season with a two-game set against the Oakland A’s in Tokyo, Japan. Although the Mariners swept the two games, Ichiro went hitless in both games but received a well-deserved standing ovation as he was removed from the second game in the bottom of the eighth. Thus ended one of the most unique careers of all time.
Ichiro, of course, came to the major leagues at age 27, joining the Seattle Mariners after playing nine years in Japan. He had owned the league in Japan winning batting titles in all seven seasons in which he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the honor. How he would do in the majors was an open question. He answered that question in a hurry winning a batting title, the Rookie of the Year and the MVP for a team that won 116 games in the regular season.
He would slap out 200 or more hits for the next decade including a major league record 262 hits in 2004 en route to his second batting crown (with a personal high of .372). He joined the 3,000-hit club in 2016 at the age of 42 with a stand-up triple, and he finishes his career with 3,089 hits good for 23rd all-time in the major leagues, 509 stolen bases (at an impressive 81% clip), a .311 career batting average, and ten All Star Games (here’s a link to his statistical record at Baseball-Reference). Ichiro was also no slacker with the glove, winning ten Gold Gloves as an outfielder (mostly in Right Field). He showed that defensive prowess and a cannon arm early on in his eighth major league game as he threw out Oakland speedster Terrence Long.
Yeah, he didn’t walk much nor did he have much power; but, with his bat, glove and legs he still helped his teams win a fair share of games, and he was fun as hell to watch especially in contrast to today’s increasingly boring game of home runs and strikeouts and strikeouts and strikeouts… Off the ballfield, Ichiro has always kept a low profile. Most likely the next time we’ll see him is 2025 when he should be elected into Baseball’s Hall of Fame as soon as he’s eligible. Until then;
Well played, sir.