Ichiro Suzuki as the Kobe Bryant of Baseball

There are many things a person can be great at in this world. It can be in academics, music, art, literature, philosophy, and even sports. Of all the fields mentioned above, the most interesting and unique field to be great in is the field of sports. This is because, in the field of sports, anyone can be great. To be great in music, art, and the rest mentioned earlier, you must have an innate skill. The great ones in those fields usually have something that cannot be obtained through training and hard work but in the field of sports, being great is a possibility for anybody and a perfect example of this is the story of the Japanese baseball legend, Ichiro Suzuki.

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The Early Ages of Ichiro Suzuki That Molded Him to be The Hall of Famer That He Eventually Became

Almost all great athletes go through a unique childhood that contributed a lot to their development of mental strength and belief in one’s self. Ichiro Suzuki was definitely one of these people because his involvement with the game started at such an early age. He grew up actively in Toyoyama, which is a town located just right outside Nagoya, and this is where he would learn to love the game called baseball. Ichiro’s father, Nobuyuki Suzuki, was a lover of the game as well and this is why he was overwhelmed with bliss when his seven-year-old son went up to him to ask him if he could teach him to be a better player because he had just joined his first baseball team and did not want to let people down.

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It wasn’t specified if what happened next was really what Ichiro wanted from his father but regardless of this, because he asked, they started to do daily routines that conditioned Ichiro’s young body to be familiarized with the motions of the sport. Examples of some of their drills were throwing 50 pitches, hitting 500 pitches, and fielding 50 outfield and infield balls each. Remember that he was 7 years old when this started so it makes perfect sense why he had just great mastery of the fundamentals of baseball.

By the time he was playing in the little leagues of Toyoyama, his focus for the game was on another level. He even had the word concentration written into his glove to keep his head in the game at all times. With all these being said, it probably wouldn’t be surprising to find out that he wholeheartedly dedicated himself to reaching the professional level in baseball at age 12 and this decision would ultimately lead to the next level of his training as well.

That was a big decision to make but no one forced him into making that choice but himself so he naturally put in all the work he could to make the possibility of his dream into his reality. His father continued to train him harder and this made baseball a little less fun for Ichiro but he knew why it had to be done and he remained focused. Instead of letting the pressure frustrate him, he just made jokes about it. An example of such an instance was when he was interviewed about how training with his dad was and he replied by saying that it might have been fun for father but for him, it was a lot like the “Star of the Giants”. This was a humorous comment from him because that popular Japanese anime and manga series was about a young baseball player trying to his dream happen through the intense training demanded by his father.

He may have joked about it a lot but his father’s hard push on him was a reality and it was seen by the people around him. His father even told Ichiro’s high school coach to never compliment him or praise him even if he’s doing a great job because his father believed that it would help him develop spiritual strength. Most kids with that much pressure on them tend to lose their passion for their sport. Luckily, it worked wonders for Ichiro and soon after, he was chosen to be a part of Nagoya’s Aikodai Meiden, which is a prestigious baseball program offered only to the most talented youths in Japanese baseball.

In his time in this program, he played as a pitcher rather than his best position which was an outfielder. He may have fit the role of an outfielder perfectly but there was no denying that this boy’s game was the complete package. In his high school career, he ended up tallying 19 home runs with an average batting of .505. This practically meant that he hit 50 percent of the time and that is great production in baseball.

The Japanese Career of Ichiro Suzuki That Involves his Wife, His stats, and His Contracts

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Despite the amazing stats or statistics that he was putting up in his high school days, because of his average physique, he was not taken seriously by many professional teams in the draft of November 1991. He stood around 5 ft 10 in and that is pretty short compared to the 6 ft 6-inch players that he will be competing against at the professional level. He wasn’t drafted until the final round of the draft. At the time it happened, it devastated him but judging from how things eventually turned out, it worked in his favor because it made his climb to the top all the more lovable and inspiring to the fans.

These MLB seasons lasted for quite a while as compared to the format of the Pacific League. The MLB would start around the last week of March or the start of April and go on in the months of May, June, July, August, September, October, and November. Considering the amount of training that he put into the game before he even got drafted, one would probably assume that he wouldn’t have a hard time adjusting to the pace of the Pacific League of Japan. He made his debut in the year of 1992 and during that time, the manager of the Orix BlueWave was Shozo Doi. This is important to note because it was this man’s decision to make Ichiro spend the majority of his first two seasons in the Pacific League in the farm system. For those who do not know, the farm system is like the D League of the NBA or, in other words, a development league system to further develop young talents to maximize their potential. Shozo Doi, being the technical person that he was, hated that Ichiro’s swing was one that was unorthodox and this was primarily what led to Shozo’s decision to send him down a level until he fixed it.

What is amazing with this is the fact that Ichiro clearly played limited minutes but he was still able to go toe to toe against Hideo Nomo, who eventually won the Rookie of the Year award at the end of the season. He did so by hitting a home run against him. If you do not follow baseball, a home run is when the batter hits the ball cleanly out of the field and is a huge deal because it allows your team to score the most points and it raises the morale of the entire team while diminishing the morale of the opponent. Aside from this, in only his second game in the Pacific League, he was already able to record his first Ichi-gun which is what they call Japan’s major professional league hit.

In the year of 1994, a blessing would come his way as the manager of the Orix BlueWave changed from Shozo Doi to Akira Ogi. Ogi was much more flexible in managing the team and this is what made it possible for Ichiro to shine. He let Ichiro play every day in the second spot of the lineup and that was huge for him because there is no real substitute to in-game experience gained at the top level of performance. He was able to showcase his skills to the point that he eventually took the leadoff spot in their team.

By that time, he was setting all kinds of new records in hits as he recorded 210 hits in a season which instantly became Japan’s single-season record for that category. In the recent years, his 210-hit record was shattered by the likes of Matt Murton’s 214-hit record in 2010 and Shogo Akiyama’s 216-hit record in the year of 2015. Regardless of these stats though, many still believe that Ichiro is still the true holder of the record because he accumulated his 210 hits in a season that only had 130 games as compared to Matt Murton’s 144-game record-setting season and Shogo Akiyama’s 143-game record-setting season.

It was also only in the year of 1994 that Ichiro actually used “Ichiro” as the name on the back of his jersey instead of “Suzuki” because his manager thought it would be a great way to shake up their image and make the team’s rising star a household name. Ichiro wasn’t really on board with the idea but it pushed through and at the end of that very season, they got exactly what they wanted. Ichiro was spoken off everywhere and endorsement deals suddenly flooded them.

His career in Japan would last until the year of 1999 and throughout his time here, he would accumulate 3 straight MVP awards, a couple of batting titles, and seven Golden Glove Awards in tremendous style. Even MLB legends and players like Sammy Sosa and Jamie Moyer were giving Ichiro praise with his play in the 1998 Japanese and American all-stars exhibition series. This year would also be the year that married Yumiko Fukushima who was once a TBS TV announcer. They got married on the 3rd day of December in the year of 1999 and after their marriage, Yumiko retired from the show business to fully support her husband in his life. An interesting thing about this couple is, despite the duration of their relationship, they have yet to make offspring. There are many speculations as to why but the most important thing is that they are happy with their arrangement and that is clearly seen with how they are with each other up to this very day.

His Career with the Mariners and the Latest News on Ichiro Suzuki like His Retirement in 2018

By Keith Allison (Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki (51)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Through the posting system, in the year of 2000, they were able to arrange a way for Ichiro to reach the MLB. The Seattle Mariners won the right to trade with the Orix BlueWave and this deal was said to have been priced at 13 million dollars. In November of that year, it was made official as Ichiro signed the papers for his 3-year, 14 million-dollar contract with the Mariners. He spent his first nine years with the Seattle Mariners and contributed enormously to the success of the franchise throughout that span of time.

He had no preference with the number so he was given the number 51. The previous user of this number for the team was the pitching star, Randy Johnson. This fact made Ichiro hesitate to take the number because it meant something to the franchise but instead of shying away from it, he accepted the number and even called up the former pitching star to promise that he would not bring shame to his number’s reputation. He fulfilled this promise by setting a rookie record of 242 hits which, at the time, was the most by any MLB player in the year of 1930. He had a batting average of .350 and stole 56 bases that same year and this made Ichiro the first player to lead both categories since the great Jackie Robinson in the year of 1949. He also became the first rookie to join the All-Star game and he won the American League MVP award along with the Rookie of the Year award.

Hitting at least 200 pitches was a rare thing to see in the MLB but Ichiro was able to successfully get at least 200 hits in his first 10 seasons in the MLB with 2004 being the best as he recorded of 262 hits, making him recognized as the single-season record holder of this title in both Japan and the United States. In 2010, he also won his 10th consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Award as he tied with other great players like Ken Griffey Jr, Al Kaline, and Andruw Jones.

Throughout his long and successful career that is still on-going up to this day, he has played for the organizations of the Seattle Mariners (2001-2012), the New York Yankees (2012-2014), and the Miami Marlins (2015-2017). In 2018, he made his return to the Seattle Mariners and he seems to plan to stay there until the end of his career because he has already accepted a position in their front office as a special assistant while still being a player for the organization. As of his present stats, he has already accumulated over 4000 hits in his career and this entitled him to join the likes of  Ty Cobb, and a couple of others who accomplished this amazing feat. His aging body makes some fans worry about the fact that his retirement might be coming up and Ichiro has expressed that he is aware of that. It isn’t going to be anytime soon though as he also expressed that he would have to reach the point wherein he would need a crane to walk before he would consider retiring.

Stories like Ichiro Suzuki don’t happen all the time and considering how inspiring his life has turned out to be, there is no doubt that he will be forever recognized and immortalized in the world of baseball. Ichiro was a regular player if you use the basis of what excelled players’ features are in the MLB and that is what makes learning about his story not only inspiring to athletes but everyone because his story is one that is all about hard work and dedication to your passion and craft. He shows the world that anybody can be special even if they are ordinary. You just need to find a way to make what you have work for you in this life and go from there.