John Powell, Asst. Sports Editor

Ichiro: a name that symbolizes a legacy. Ichiro Suzuki embodies the game that has gained international acclaim. He is the best player on the field and off the field.

In Japan, the ballplayer won his first batting title at age 20. He was named the league’s most valuable player at the age of 21. He then followed that feat by gaining five more batting crowns in Japan.

In 1994, partly because of the hype he was creating, his manager, Akira Ogi changed the name on the uniform from “Suzuki” to “Ichiro.”

He was introduced as a Mariner in the 2001 season, leading the team to a record-tying 116 wins out of 162 total games. Ichiro won the batting title with an average of .350, amassing 242 hits. He was named rookie of the year and MVP.

First, we look at his hitting statistics. He stands alone as the only player to have nine, that’s right, nine 200-hit seasons, beating our Hall-of-Famer Willie Keeler, who held the record at eight seasons.

The man reached 2,000 hits faster than everyone except Hall-of-Famer Al Simmons, missing the record by only 13 games. This is after he has compiled 1,278 hits while playing for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan’s Pacific League.
In 2004, Ichiro broke an 84-year-old record by piling up 262 hits in one season. Ichiro does not sacrifice his swing for statistics.

“Chicks who dig home runs aren’t the ones who appeal to me,” said Suzuki.
“I think there’s sexiness in infield hits because they require technique. I’d rather impress the chicks with my technique than with my brute strength. Then, every now and then, just to show I can do that too, I might flirt a little by hitting one out,” said Suzuki.

Second, we look at his defense. Ichiro has garnered gold glove after gold glove for his stellar play in right field. This success comes from his incredible speed in open field and his ability to make plays where others would be hopeless.

For a small guy in the major leagues, his rocket of an arm can throw runners out from anywhere on the field. ESPN’s Baseball Tonight’s Web Gem segment has become a shrine to Ichiro’s high-flying and diving plays.

Third, we look at his diversity. Notable players make a name for themselves at one position and become either a defensive wall or an offensive wrecking crew. Ichiro has gained fame and notoriety by being equally talented in every area of the game.

After seeing how position players turned pitchers have injured themselves, most notably Jose Canseco who required surgery, Ichiro has still told some in his organization that he would like to pitch in a major league game before he retires.

Finally, we look at his intangibles. For 17 seasons, Ichiro had not been thrown out of a game. That streak, opposite of Bobby Cox’s ejection run, was broken on Sept. 24 for arguing balls and strikes in a loss against the Toronto Blue Jays.

His willingness to aid his team in any way possible has pushed him to be one of the best team players of all time.

He has a simple name, a simple swing, a simple glove, a simple run, a simple game. But the man is nothing short of exceptional. Of course, he still is the ever-humble Ichiro.


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