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Where EAST meets the Northwest

ICHIRO INDUCTED. Former Seattle Mariners player Ichiro Suzuki is inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame during a ceremony before a baseball game between the Mariners and the Cleveland Guardians last month in Seattle. Ichiro, who prefers to use only his first name, joins nine other Mariners already in the Mariners HOF. He was a 10-time All-Star and American League Rookie of the Year in 2001. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

From The Asian Reporter, V32, #9 (September 5, 2022), page 12.

Ichiroís honor by Mariners seems a precursor to Cooperstown

By Tim Booth

The Associated Press

SEATTLE ó More than five hours before the first pitch on August 28, Ichiro Suzuki was in the outfield, in uniform still going through his throwing routine.

Three years removed from his last game as a player with the Seattle Mariners in his home country of Japan, Ichiro hasnít lost that competitive drive.

Itís just channelled in different ways now.

"If the guys on the team come up and ask me a question about baseball, I want to be able to tell them, but also be able to show them, and if I donít continue to do what Iím doing, physically being ready, training, I wonít be able to really help them," Suzuki said through his interpreter. "I know there are former players that can teach and tell them what to do. But I think itís more valuable to be able to show them how."

Ichiro finally got a chance last month to take a day off from his pregame routine of throwing, running, and fielding during batting practice, when he became the latest inductee into the Marinersí Hall of Fame. Being the center of attention and tasked with giving a speech weighed heavier on the 48-year-old as the induction day drew closer.

He joked that the stress of the speech was giving him a second ulcer after suffering one as a player in 2009.

"The preparing for a game is, I canít say easy, but doesnít compare to what this preparation for [the ceremony] is," Suzuki said a day before the game. "I mean, I really have a stomachache thinking about the speech Ö."

Suzuki spent the first 11 seasons of his major league career with the Mariners before getting traded to the New York Yankees midway through the 2012 season. Suzuki played parts of three seasons with the Yankees, and three more in Miami before returning to Seattle to close out his career.

His final appearance came at the beginning of the 2019 season which Seattle opened with two games in Japan. Ichiro announced his retirement after the second game.

"When I still run and do things, I feel like I could still play. Physically I feel like I could play," Suzuki said. "But emotionally, because I was able to finish the way I was able to finish, that kind of beats out all the other things. It just makes it so that Iím at peace."

Ichiro retired with 3,089 hits in the majors and another 1,278 during his nine seasons in Japan before he made the move to Seattle at age 27. He batted .311 for his career, was the 2001 AL MVP and rookie of the year, and holds the single-season hit record of 262 that may never be approached.

The induction with the Mariners is likely just a precursor for 2025 when Suzuki is first eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame. But this one is special because of his connection with the franchise and city that started when he arrived in 2001 and continues today.

"When I first came here, I was not a free agent. The ownership here took a chance on me and gave me this opportunity," Ichiro said. "And then as I played here, I knew there [were] expectations and I tried to meet those expectations. As I played, that relationship began and itís something thatís very special. So I guess you could say it just became this way. It took time. It was like a relationship and we got to this point."

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