Ichiro Suzuki retired from professional baseball today.
I love Ichiro Suzuki. The guy was pure class, poise and one hell of a baseball player. I vaguely remember when he came into the majors how big a deal he was. He was this great hitter and had a laser arm. Right off the bat he proved that both of those things were true. The guy might be the best base hitter since Tony Gwynn, my all time favorite baseball player. He would stand at the plate, take pitches until he got one that he liked, and he'd smack it into the outfield. He was never a homerun hitter either. This guy was all about getting on base and letting his teammates knock him in. Not only was he a great hitter, he was a smart hitter. He knew what to do, when to do it and how to do it. His running hits were amazing. By this I mean, he would start to run as the pitch came in, smack it to the opposite field and almost always reach base. It was a thing of beauty.
As far as his laser arm, that was proven true immediately. I vividly remember one of his first games seeing him throw out a guy that was on second, from deep right field, with ease while that player thought he could walk to third base. The throw was an absolute dart, and the base runner was out by a mile. I was astonished. I had never seen anything like that before. It was amazing. I'm sure he used to throw guys out at first too, slower guys, who would hit liners to him in right, and he would throw another dart to the first baseman for an easy out. It has been said about pro baseball that they put some of their best, and hardest throwing players in right field, and Ichiro proved this tenfold. He was amazing to watch play defense, and that is saying something when talking about baseball. To be excited by an outfielder making a throw means that player is transcendent. That was Ichiro.
I remember when he was on that Mariners team that won something around 115 games, then getting beat in the first round of the playoffs by the Yankees. It wasn't his fault. He did everything he could to get that team as far as they could, but he is only one guy. That was the problem in Seattle, he never really got the help that he needed. He was a great leadoff guy, but that can only take a team so far. The Mariners never helped him out. Sure, they would bring in guys here and there, but it was never a guy or guys that could help. They were all at the end, or never really had it.
When Ichiro left Seattle, and I didn't know what to make of his career from there. I still loved him as a baseball player, but I thought he may have been done. But, in true Ichiro fashion, he goes to Miami, at around 40 years old, and still was banging out hits and making great throws. He, along with Giancarlo Stanton, were the only reasons to watch that Marlins team. Sure, they had other guys, but Stanton was the long ball guy, and Ichiro was the old vet on his last run. And they both had the Marlins in the playoff race for a long time during last season. Much longer than they should have been in it.
When Derek Jeter and company came in and started to dismantle the team, I didn't know what Ichiro would do. In fact, I was more interested where he would go as opposed to where Stanton would go. When he decided to return to Seattle, I was stoked. It was so fitting. It made too much sense. I loved that he was going back where it all started in America for him. Now, the Mariners aren't world beaters, not by a long shot, but it was awesome to see Ichiro in that uniform one more time.
I assumed he was going to finish this whole season out, but with him retiring effective immediately, it gave me conflicted feelings. I'm sure he is toast, but I wanted to see of he could get 100 plus hits again. I wanted to see him throw darts. I don't like MLB, but I should have watched him a bit more this first quarter of the year, had I known he was going to walk away during the year.
Ichiro Suzuki is a great, Hall of Fame player. He is the hit king. He was a classy pro baseball player. He let his game do his talking. He was never over the top or acted like he was bigger than the game. He never was a problem on any team he was on. Ichiro was a good dude. He will go into the Hall of Fame right away, deservedly so, and I think hard core baseball fans will miss him. Hell, I'm not even a hard core fan and I miss him. Ichiro was one of a kind. Enjoy your retirement.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast. Ichiro joins a list of great Mariners who never reached the World Series. Welcome to the club that includes Ken Griffey Jr and Edgar Martinez, two of the best ever.
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