Ichiro Calls It After 19 Year Major League Career
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Ichiro Suzuki, known exclusively by only his first name ‘Ichiro’, has been a Hall-of-Fame-caliber player in Major League Baseball since 2001 and is retiring at the age of 45. The probable first-ballot hall of famer began his American career with the Seattle Mariners, until later playing in Miami and New York, before returning to Seattle to finish out his playing career.
Ichiro’s professional career began in the Pacific League of the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) League in Japan at the age of 18 with the Orix Blue Wave. Just two years into his career in 1994, he set the Japanese single season record for hits with 210, a feat that also made him the only player to have more than 200 hits in a season in the league’s history. The record has since only been surpassed 5 times, mostly during seasons that consisted of more games.
Ichiro’s 1994 season proved to be a historic beginning to an overall historic career. His .385 batting average was dominant enough to land him his first of a record 7 batting titles over his career. It was during this season as well that he won his first Pacific League MVP award, something he would accomplish two more times in a row. Fittingly, it was during his historic 1994 campaign that he decided upon going only by his now well-known title of ‘Ichiro’, a decision that brought a uniqueness along with his skill when he ventured to America.
After playing in several exhibition games against Major League Baseball clubs, Ichiro garnered an interest in taking his talents to America. “I heard that in the United States the level of baseball was the highest in the world,” Ichiro later said. “So it was only natural that I would want to go there, as a baseball player….I wanted the challenge of competing against the best players in the world.” In 2000 when his contract with Orix had almost expired, the club was allowed to negotiate with MLB teams. The result came in the form of a 3-year, $14 million contract with the Seattle Mariners, meaning a conclusion to a phenomenal Japanese baseball career and a beginning to his new career in America at the age of 27.
With the conclusion of his playing time in Japan, Ichiro garnered a wide array of achievements and recognitions. Most notable were his 7 all-star appearances, 3 MVP awards, 7 Golden Glove Awards, 7 batting titles, and 1996 Japan Series Championship, as well as finishing with a career .353 batting average and 1,278 hits. Not only was his list of accomplishments from Japanese play very lengthy, it only got longer with his time spent in America.
There was large interest surrounding Ichiro due to his baseball skill, and that he was one of the first Japanese position players to compete in the MLB.
Ichiro’s second rookie season, this time in 2001 in the MLB, proved to be even more astounding than what he had done in Japan. The rookie concluded the season with 242 hits, the most ever by a rookie, or by anyone since 1930. Additionally, his .350 batting average and 56 stolen bases led to the capture of the Rookie of the Year, MVP, and Silver Slugger Awards, as well as a starting spot in the all-star game, something that had only been done one other time in history. Coupled with other things, it was Ichiro’s amazing play that led Seattle to tie the MLB record of 116 wins in a season.
What Ichiro called “the greatest moment of my career” came on October first when he began the game one hit shy of George Sisler’s Major League hits record for a season with 256. He finished the day with 258 hits and the record to his name. He would finish the season with 262 hits, a record that still stands to this day. With the capture of the MLB hits record, he now owned that title in both Japan and the United States.
Fifteen years later, having already played two years with the Yankees and now calling Miami home, Ichiro achieved the pinnacle of baseball hitting accomplishments. On August 7, 2016, Ichiro collected his 3000th hit with a triple against the Colorado Rockies, a feat that has only been accomplished by 32 other players and was described by baseball writer Josh Pahigian as “long considered the greatest measure of superior bat handling.” Ichiro had conquered even the toughest of records in America.
In 2018, Ichiro returned to where it all began in Seattle in the form of a one-year contract. He returned for 2019 for an opening series between the Mariners and the Athletics that was located in the Tokyo Dome in Japan. After starting both games between the two, Ichiro announced to the world in front of his home country that he would be retiring from the game of baseball. His career consisted of 28 years of professional baseball, 19 in the MLB and 9 in the NPB, which totals the longest career of all time.
Many consider Pete Rose to be the all-time hits king with his 4,256 hits in the MLB. Ichiro has continued garnering recognition as possibly being above Rose due to his hits total between Japan and the United States. Ichiro collected 1,278 hits before he stepped foot on an MLB field, and later collected 3,089 hits in the MLB, baseball’s most skilled league. With a total of 4,367, Ichiro holds the international hits record.
Ichiro’s impact was deeper than just on the baseball field. He inspired countless people, young and old with his determination and style of play. “I’m not a big guy and hopefully kids could look at me and see that I’m not muscular and physically imposing, that I’m just a regular guy,” Ichiro said. “So if somebody with a regular body can get into the record books, kids can look at that.”
From the perspective of young Japanese players entering the MLB who saw Ichiro play as kids, he is almost like a god. “Ichiro is the most famous person in japan” said Yu Darvish, a Japanese pitcher for the Cubs. “Mr. Ichiro is like a god in japan” said Yusei Kikuchi, another Japanese Major Leaguer, this time a rookie. “For me, he was always somebody unreachable, like somebody above the clouds.” said Masahiro Tanaka, pitcher for the Yankees.
Nathan Kernell is a sophomore majoring in Communications with a focus in Digital Media. He is a very swell guy. firstname.lastname@example.org.