To most of the Major League Baseball (MLB) fans, the biggest news of the transfer market in the off season could be Shohei Ohtani, who came from the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japanese Pacific League to the Los Angeles Angels. However, behind this big contract of a Japanese two-way player, there was another solid contract for a Japanese player, Ichiro Suzuki, returning to his old home at the Seattle Mariners.
People usually describe this player as a living legend based on the record and achievement that he has marked in the last 17 seasons. Ichiro started off his Japanese professional career with the Orix BlueWave as an 18-year-old rookie.
After nine seasons in Japan, he won the seven leading hitter titles, the seven best nine titles, the seven Gold Globe Awards, and he was elected as an All-Star player for the seven consecutive years. With these unbreakable titles, Ichiro moved over to Seattle in 2001, when he was 27 years old.
Even after he changed his surroundings, he marked a lot of unbelievable records like he did in Japan. Since the year he made a debut in Seattle, he had recorded more than at least 200 hits in a season for a MLB record for 10 consecutive years from 2001 to 2010 including a single season hit record, 262 hits, in 2004, which is yet to be broken by any other players. Other than that, he got the ten consecutive Rawlings Golden Glove Award from 2001 to 2010, won the leading hitter title twice, and he was elected as an All-Star player for 10 consecutive years since 2001.
Considering his untouchable records above, there’s no wonder why people call him a legend. However, there seems to be another reason why people are concerned about MLB, including players, staffs, coaches, and fans, admire him and his attitude towards baseball.
For example, Ichiro is possibly said to be a player who has made more efforts than any other baseball player in this world. Allen Turner, who is his official interpreter and his batting pitcher, testifies that there’s “No one on earth that takes more swings than him. First day spring training until the season is over, there’s no day off. Every off day, we come to the ballpark, throw, hit, and run. As for me, coming to the field ever since the spring training, it is a day thing. He’ll take three days off after the season, come back to the stadium at the bottom of the month, work every day, and do the same routine,” according to MLB.com.
Additionally, he carefully treats his baseball equipment as well as his body. In terms of treatment of his bat, he always uses his own bat case made of duralumin in order to prevent his bat from moisture. Also, he has a unique routine about the treatment of his bat. “Before every single game, he gently set up his main bat on the top of the bench, but never place it in the bat rack as his teammates do, and never let other people touch it,” according to Root Sport.
“Equipment has heart, Human heart, Inside it,” said Ichiro.
Like noted above, Ichiro should be admired based not only on his remarkable record, but also on his sincere attitude toward baseball. As of the 2018 opening day, he is 44 years old.
Regarding the one year contract by the Seattle Mariners, he is not only expected to do a great job as an outfielder, but also expected to be a good role model for younger players on the team. Under this circumstance, his philosophy about baseball has touched his young colleague, Dee Gordon.
Dee Gordon had played with Ichiro in his former club, Miami Marlins, from 2015 to 2017. For those three years, he looked up to Ichiro as his preceptor and learned a lot other than solely Ichiro’s technique.
According to the news tribune, “He doesn’t take any days off. Off days, he’d be at the stadium. I didn’t do that until I saw him do it,” Gordon said.
Gordon also began to treat his equipment as gently as Ichiro does. One of the former infield coaches for Dee Gordon at the Los Angeles Dodgers, Daisuke Yamashita, notes in Japanese newspaper that, “When Gordon is given the bat case by Ichiro, he was so excited, and since then, he has used it as if it is like treasure.”
He also mentions that “If really Gordon understand to treat the equipment in a way Ichiro does, that means a part of Japanese baseball culture is inherited to American baseball.”
Miraculously, Gordon will also be on the Seattle Mariners this season with Ichiro again.
Some critics say what Ichiro does is too much, and others might say he’s committed. However, this is his way to keep his mind and his performance great as a professional baseball player, and he has proven his potential in the last 17 seasons in MLB.
Since Ichiro is an older MLB player, it is precious to see his attitude, efforts, and commitment as a professional baseball player, and even after his career comes to an end, his philosophy will certainly be inherited by the legends in the following generations.