I know I’ve written about him before, at least I assume I have, but today is the last day Ichiro Suzuki will step on a baseball field as a player. He announced yesterday that, after today’s game in Japan, he’s stepping away.
This dude is a surefire first ballot hall of fame player. He came into baseball when I still cared about the sport, and he was amazing. In his rookie year, where he won rookie of the year and MVP, he was a delight to watch. I had heard so much about him, but actually seeing him play was a whole experience. His approach at the plate was Tony Gwynn esque. He waited on the pitch he wanted to hit, and it looked as if he was slapping the ball with his bat. And it worked. He regularly hit well over .300 and would easily get 200 plus hits a year when he came to the US. Also, his drag bunts were a thing of beauty. He seemingly placed it in the perfect spot every time, and with his speed, he would get the single with ease. On the rare occasion he hit a home run, he looked as surprised as the fans did. He was never a long ball hitter, which I admire the hell out of, but he would get a hold of one every now and then. And when he would be rounding the bases, he always had a big grin on his face. It was great.
What really set Ichiro apart in my opinion was his defense. First off, he had a rocket for an arm. When he would field a hit in right field and come up to throw the ball, you knew it would be in a rope, and it would get to the infield in a hurry. I’m sure he threw out some of the slower runners at first when they would hit it solid to him. You always had to run as fast as you could when he would field the ball. I watched him throw out so many runners trying to tag up from third, or stretch a single to a double, or, if they’d dare, a double to a triple. His arm was tremendous. So was his range and athleticism. He robbed a ton of hits. He made a lot of opposing players batting averages slightly lower than they should have been. He was a joy to watch in the outfield. He made right field, dare I say, fun to watch.
I think what I admire most about Ichiro was his attitude. He was the consummate pro. He never had a scandal that I know of. His teammates have always seemed to like playing baseball with him. And he played the game with joy, and stuck around as long as he could. He truly loves the game of baseball. He is in his mid 40’s and just now retiring. That’s amazing for a pro athlete. And he’s not leaving due to injury, or poor play. He’s stepping away because he wants to. He’s done it all, minus winning a ring, that he could accomplish. I also like that he told the Mariners brass, behind closed doors, that he is calling it quits after today. He doesn’t need a farewell tour. He doesn’t need the pomp and circumstance. I feel like he’d be embarrassed by that.
I was, and always will be, a huge Ichiro Suzuki fan. He showed up when I still liked the MLB, he was great, he was fun and he is humble. Enjoy retirement. You deserve it, and I can’t wait to see you inducted into the Hall of Fame. You’ve earned it.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast. The best story about Ichiro is how he reacted when Tom Brady texted him. Go read the story.
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