Ichiro Retires

Photo by Japan Times

Ichiro Retires in Tokyo After 19 MLB Seasons


By David A. Avila

In front of 45,000 fans in his native country Ichiro Suzuki, Japan’s best player and one of the best ballplayers from any country, retired after 19 seasons on Thursday at the Tokyo Dome.

“I have ended my career and decided to retire,” said Suzuki on Thursday after the second game of the series in Tokyo between Seattle and Oakland.

Suzuki, 45, retired as a Seattle Mariner the team that first lured him away from Japan when he was that country’s best player in 2000. In the Major Leagues, the slim but fast outfielder proved he could dominate in the U.S. too.

Blessed with speed, fielding and a batting eye unparalleled, the Japanese outfielder with a powerful arm led the Mariners to a team record of 116 wins in his first season in 2001. That franchise record has never been close to being matched as Ichiro hit .350 with 242 hits, 56 stolen bases his first season in MLB. He led his team to first place and the playoffs and was voted AL Rookie of the Year along with Most Valuable Player that debut year. It was one of the most remarkable performances ever seen and established him as a star. It also proved Japanese position players could compete and excel in the Major Leagues and led to more players venturing to the U.S.

A few compared Suzuki to another foreign born player named Roberto Clemente who he shared many similar traits. Armed with an accurate and powerful arm the right fielder could nail runners trying to take those extra bases. The American League quickly learned not to run on the slim Japanese fielder with a cannon arm. He could also run and steal bases. He twice won the batting title and his best was a .372 average in 2004.

Suzuki departs never having played in the World Series but was beloved by all who played against him. He amassed a total of 3,089 hits in MLB with a .311 career average and more than 4,300 hits when adding those collected in Japanese Baseball.

“When I look back on my career I know I will remember today as the most memorable day without a doubt,” Suzuki said. “I have no regrets.”

No doubt the man simply known as Ichiro will be voted to the Baseball Hall of Fame the first year eligible.

What a wonderful career.