Yesterday morning I saw that our friends from Beyond the Box Score took it upon themselves to launch “Ichiro Day”. Quite frankly there is no one like Ichiro and it is only right there is a day enshrined to his greatness. This is the beautiful tribute BTBS gives to Area 51.
BTBS’ valiant efforts inspired me to compile my own tribute to the flame-throwing outfielder from Japan. When people think “transcendent talent” from the Seattle Mariners, most minds would probably shift to Junior. My mind goes to Ichiro. I was fortunate enough to grow up learning and understanding the game of baseball by watching the unprecedented talent that was Ichiro Suzuki. As one of the pieces written by BTBS mentioned, “It’s not a generational talent. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime talent”. No truer words have been written, and I would be pressed to find someone who did not respect the career Ichiro has cultivated over the last 15 years. Seattle fans were lucky to watch him in his prime. Here are some of my favorite Ichiro moments, in no particular order:
- October 1st, 2004 – Ichiro breaks the all-time single season hits record of 257 hits. Eclipsing a record George Sisler had held since 1920. Sisler’s family was in attendance, and boy did I see lots of grown men cry that day. The Mariners were two days away from finishing 63-99, but it didn’t matter. We had Ichiro. We had this phenomenal player who posted a 9.1 WAR that season, who we could justifiably put every once of our pride in. That was a special day.
- Wassup, George? – This clip of Ichiro was filmed for Ken Griffey Jr’s induction into the Mariners Hall of Fame in 2013. At that point Ichiro had not been on the Mariners for about a year, and it warmed my happy baseball heart to see him apart of that ceremony. The relationship between Junior and Ichiro was a delight to watch. While they did not spend a lot of years playing together, it didn’t seem to matter to them. Ichiro and Junior individually were great, but were especially great for the Seattle Mariners fans.
- September 18th, 2009 – was one of the most beautiful walk off home runs I have ever witnessed live, along with the other 20,925 people still there. It was the bottom of the 9th and New York Yankees were ahead of the Mariners 2-1. Michael Saunders was on second. Future Hall of Fame closer, Mariano Rivera had already secured 2 outs when Ichiro came to the plate. Rivera offered up his famous pitch, 92 MPH, in and off the plate, and Ichiro smacks deep into right field to win the game. However this moment was made even more enjoyable when Ichiro did this as he crossed home plate: The look on Junior’s face says it all. Also, Adrian <3. Here’s the full clip.
- The Ichiro Epidemic – This commercial is a play on Ichiro’s infamous batting ritual. While it is playful, it is pretty darn accurate. Everyone loved him, kids wanted to imitate him. Every good thing he did, we fans took credit for. When he did not do so well, we defended him fiercely. He was ours.
- All-Star Games – Ichiro was 10 time All-Star, so there are plenty of moments to chose from. My two favorites are 2001 and 2007. 2001 Ichiro was the first Rookie to start an All-Star game in over 10 years. Safeco Field was hosting the All-Star game that year and Ichiro hit an infield single, true to Ichiro form, against Randy Johnson (!). 2007 Ichiro hit an inside the park home run off Chris Young (!!), right over the head off starting right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. (!!!). He was the All-Star MVP that year. Did I pick particular moments because they were bursting with former Mariners? Maybe.
There are countless moments of happiness spread throughout Ichiro’s illustrious career, and I would be writing forever if I named them all. Instead, my thoughts about Ichiro in one tweet:
Here’s to another season, Ichiro. Cannot wait until 3,000. Go Mariners.