Thursday was a sad day for baseball. Ichiro will transition into a front office role with the Mariners and although he hasn’t officially retired yet, his career looks just about over. However, according to his agent, Ichiro still doesn’t know what will happen in 2019, but maybe we see him take the field one last time when the Mariners open the seasons against the A’s at the Tokyo Dome.
Ichiro came to the MLB 18 years ago in 2001 and became a favorite right from the start. It was incredible what he did in his first season. He was an All-star, won a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, was Rookie of the Year, and also won MVP. He hit .350 that year and had 242 hits. In 2004, he had 262 hits which is still a record today for single season hits.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Ichiro’s game, however, was his speed. Yes, he stole a lot of bases, 509 in fact, but it was amazing how he could consistently beat out a ground ball. He would hit a routine ground ball to the shortstop and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was safe at first. It didn’t just show you how fast Ichiro was, but also how he hustled on every hit.
Also, Ichiro came to the MLB during the steroid era. His game was obviously the complete opposite of the trend that was happening in baseball. That makes his MVP season even more impressive, considering home runs were the craze and he had a total of eight in 2001. The surprising part is that Ichiro could have hit 40 home runs a season if he wanted to. However, he never wanted to hurt his average to hit home runs. If you ever saw him take batting practice, you would know that Ichiro could launch a ball.
Ichiro is not only what Japanese player strive to be when they come over to the MLB, but all baseball players. Of course, no one will ever have the same skill-set as Ichiro, but every player should try to enjoy the game as much as him and bring the hustle that he brought everyday.
It’s a shame we couldn’t have seen him finish the season, but it was great to see him again in Seattle. The Mariners do a great job of bringing former players back just like they did with Ken Griffey Jr. when he retired.
We are not yet sure if this is definitely the last time we see Ichiro play, maybe we will in the opening series in Japan, but we do know that he is one of the all-time greats and a first ballot Hall of Famer.