Ichiro Suzuki became my favorite player in a very weird way. When I was 11,I went to the BRAND NEW Walmart in my town and was looking for something to get for my. Either for Christmas. I went to the poster section and flipped through their offerings. I didn’t find much, but I found a poster of Ichiro. I ended up buying it because I thought it’s be cool to hang in my room. I mean this guy was the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in 2001. He was a legend in his first year. My love for baseball was pretty much sequestered to the Eastern Divisions and the Mariners games were too late for me to watch, but Ichiro highlights were inescapable.
What struck me about Ichiro was how simple, yet effective his swing was. By batting from the left side he was two steps closer to first, and with his blazing speed, anything put into play seemed to be a hit. He was the least threatening looking guy at the plate, but he always knew he could beat you.
Before he came to the Seattle Mariners, Ichiro was a fixture of the Japanese league for the nine years. In fact he was still the hitting machine he became in the states, but had a lot more power while playing for the Orix Blue Wave. This is the first crazy thing about Ichiro to me, the guy not only took over the league in his first year, but did so as an entirely different kind of hitter. From the moment he joined the MLB, Ichiro was destined for 3,000 hits. I mean, you can’t hold the record for most hits in a season and not get to 3,000, right? RIGHT?!
This year, as a member of the Miami Marlins, Ichiro came closer and closer to becoming the 30th member of the 3,000 hit club. Starting the season with 2,935 to his name, Ichiro’s season began slowly. Ichiro is now just a bench player on the Marlins, as their young and talented outfield takes most of the playing time. Ichiro was brought on by the Marlins in 2015 on a small contract, and mainly there for day-to-day relief and veteran experience. On one occasion, he’s even pitched for them.
On August 7th, 2016, Ichiro found himself on the Marlins lineup card batting 6th and playing Centerfield, giving Marcell Ozuna the day off. In the 87 games where Ichiro has been put in the 6th spot, he has 60 hits…. 60 hits of his 2,999 came while hitting the sixth spot. So the outlook for the day seemed bleak.
However, we’re forgetting that Ichiro doesn’t care about numbers or batting orders, Ichiro loves the game. In the 7th inning, Ichiro stepped into the box to face Chad Rusin. The first two pitches were called for balls, but the third pitch would start in Rusin’s hand and end up in the history books.
Ichiro’s 3,000th hit was a triple and I think that’s perfect. Triples are so rare in today’s game that, barring an insane error in the outfield or the ludicrous dimensions of a ballpark (LOOKING AT YOU AT&T PARK), a triple isn’t something you see every day. Alex Rodriguez hit a home run for his 3,00th hit and that seems fitting. He was known for the long ball long before he was caught using PEDs. It seemed like any other at bat for A-Rod, nothing out of the ordinary. That’s the same feeling for Ichiro’s 3,000th hit, just a normal every day occurrence. Just Ichiro doing Ichiro things.
What Ichiro makes Ichiro different from A-Rod, Jeter, Biggio and all of the other players who recently joined the 3,000 hit club? For me, it’s how he changed the game not just on the field, but off the field as well. Ichiro came into the game at a time when size and power were dominating the game. His debut came in the season when Barry Bonds hit 73 dingers, the most in a season, and yet Ichiro is the player who owns 2001. Ichiro changed the way players looked at the game. If you look at the game from a different angle you can pick out it’s vulnerabilities, you can see how to make the change to better your advantage, you can take reimagine the leadoff spot, or you can become the best hitting Japanese baseball player of all time. Ichiro did just that.
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