Who Is Ichiro Suzuki?
Born on October 22, 1973, in Kasugai, Japan, baseball player Ichiro Suzuki became a seven-time batting champion in his home country. After joining Major League Baseball's Seattle Mariners in 2001, he became the second player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP Awards in the same season. Ichiro set an MLB single-season record for hits in 2004 and accumulated career hit No. 4,000 in August 2013. In 2015, he recorded the 4,257th hit of his professional career, breaking the MLB record held by Pete Rose.
Ichiro Suzuki was born on October 22, 1973, in Kasugai, Japan. His father, Nobuyuki, was a former high school player who was determined to give his son an early start in the sport. Ichiro began training at age 3, their practices eventually becoming daily sessions that stretched well into nighttime.
Ichiro was recruited by the highly regarded Aikodai Meiden Koko high school baseball program as a pitcher and an outfielder. Over three seasons, he batted .502 and stole 131 bases, with just 10 strikeouts in 536 at-bats. Despite his success, he was bypassed in the 1991 professional draft due to his slight 5'9", 120-pound frame, before going to the Orix Blue Wave in the fourth round.
Japanese Baseball Career
Ichiro spent most of his first two professional seasons in the minor leagues, but the new Orix manager gave him the chance to start in 1994, and he responded with a record 210 hits and Pacific League-leading .385 average. Ichiro won six more batting titles and three MVP Awards, as well as the Japanese championship with the 1996 Blue Wave team.
In the meantime, Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo had achieved success in America, and Ichiro sought to follow in his footsteps. After the 2000 season, Orix permitted Major League Baseball teams to submit offers for Ichiro in a blind bidding process known as "posting." The Seattle Mariners won the rights to the player with a $13.125 million bid, then signed him to a three-year contract for another $14 million.
American Baseball Career
Seattle Mariners MVP
Ichiro was an instant sensation as the first Japanese everyday position player in the Major Leagues, demonstrating an ability to spray hits to all fields and a surprisingly strong outfield arm. He finished the 2001 campaign with a Major League-leading .350 batting average, 242 hits and 56 stolen bases, and become just the second player to win the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Award in the same season. The dynamic newcomer also won a Gold Glove Award and sparked the Mariners to an American League record 116 wins.
Ichiro proved remarkably consistent in Seattle, pumping out 200 hits, 30 steals and a .300 average year after year. In 2004, he surpassed Hall of Famer George Sisler's 84-year-old single-season record of 257 hits en route to a total of 262 and a career-best .372 average. Two years later, he began a streak of successful stolen base attempts, boosting the number to an American League-record 45 before he was finally thrown out in May 2007.
The master batsman toppled another ancient batting record when he notched his ninth consecutive 200-hit season in 2009, and he repeated the feat again in 2010 to tie Pete Rose for the overall mark. However, he finished the 2011 season with an average below .300 and failed to win a Gold Glove Award for the first time since coming to the Majors.
New York Yankees, Miami Marlins & Hit Record
Ichiro was traded to the New York Yankees in July 2012, and he batted .322 over his final 67 games to help the Yankees reach the playoffs. The following August, he recorded hit No. 4,000 between his playing days in Japan and the United States, a testament to his incredible career and the ability of Japanese players to succeed in the American Major Leagues. He played with the Yankees through 2014.
From 2015-17, Ichiro played outfield for the Miami Marlins. During his time with the team, he recorded his 500th career stolen base in America and surpassed Pete Rose’s famed MLB mark with the 4,257th hit of his professional career.
Return to Mariners
Ichiro signed a one-year deal to return to Seattle in March 2018, but wound up accepting a move to the team's front office two months later and didn't return for the remainder of the season. Still, the veteran refused to say he was retiring, and insisted he would be ready to return to the field at the start of 2019.
After re-signing with the Mariners on a minor league deal, Ichiro returned to his home country for the March 2019 MLB season opener between the Mariners and Oakland A's. He was treated to a warm welcome by the 45,000 fans at the Tokyo Dome, who chanted his name when he took his place out in right field at the start of the game.
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