He knows his death as a baseball player is getting closer.
March 7, 2018 2:35 PM   Subscribe

Ichiro Suzuki is 44 years old but he is not ready to quit playing baseball for a living. There is more going on here than just baseball. We have parental abuse, parental estrangement, OCD, and very strong dedication to his craft.
posted by COD (26 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
And the Mariners just gave him a contract...
posted by Windopaene at 2:51 PM on March 7 [7 favorites]

He's coming home to Seattle! I hope they let him play as long he wants to.

On preview: What Windopaene said.
posted by dancing_angel at 2:54 PM on March 7 [6 favorites]

He was so obviously dispirited and underperforming when he left. I sure hope he keeps his head up here; watching Griffey flail his last go round here was pretty sad. That said, glad to have him back, I think! God knows the Mariners need a draw this year.
posted by mwhybark at 2:58 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]

I didnt say that as a positive...

His reclusiveness meant he was never a favorite, in spite of his insane ability to hit single after single after single.

And our outfield is so terrible right now that Ichiro is an upgrade...
posted by Windopaene at 4:28 PM on March 7

It's only a negative if his salary doesn't put people in the seats. That's a pretty high salary, I'm sure he's happy, and his family lives in Seattle.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:33 PM on March 7

This is such a good piece. Thanks for this.
posted by limeonaire at 4:50 PM on March 7

Was going to make a post out of this myself, so thanks for saving me the work! Terrific story.

When we visited Cooperstown last year, we went to a talk where the curators show off a couple of objects that aren't on display, but in storage. That day they brought out a pair of Ichiro's baseball shoes. I wear size 9 or 9.5 depending; these didn't have a size marking inside but they were noticeably smaller than mine.

I pointed that out to my kids -- that with hard work (obsession, really, if you read the article), a skinny little guy made himself into the best all-around baseball player in the world.
posted by martin q blank at 5:12 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]

(PS - I saw him play once in Seattle, back in 2009. I was just there once, and I'm not a regular like posters above. But at least that one night, fans erupted in cheers like I've never heard when he came up late in the game. Thunderous, stadium-shaking cheers. So glad he's going to get another chance there.)
posted by martin q blank at 5:24 PM on March 7 [5 favorites]

he was never a favorite

demonstrably, definitively untrue

perhaps you mean "with the local press," in which case you sorta kinda have a point, much like Marshawn
posted by mwhybark at 6:41 PM on March 7 [7 favorites]

I don't understand why people are looking to him with any sort of envy.

"chiro has broken away from his father -- the man who invented Ichiro, the wellspring of all that's good and bad in his life -- but he cannot break away from the man his father created. He cannot escape the patterns burned into him as a boy. His American teammates all talk about how he still polishes his gloves and spikes, as he was taught. He works out every day without break, forsaking even a family, wearing shorts in the freezing Kobe winter. He's made a $160 million fortune and can't enjoy it. He's earned his rest but can't take it. He's won his freedom but doesn't want it. The kid in the essay who wrote of a life away from baseball no longer exists.

Ichiro now does to himself all the things he resents his father for having made him do."

Most of this article reads as heart-wrenching to me.
posted by fantasticness at 6:43 PM on March 7 [19 favorites]

I am overjoyed that he is returning to the Mariners. I moved here in 2001, the same year he debuted, and the same year the M's had that magical 116 game-winning regular season. Something about arriving in the same city at the same moment has intensified my affection for him and I was so saddened to see him leave.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:48 PM on March 7 [3 favorites]

Oh man 2001, truly a magical year. When he came to the plate or made a play in the field there was a better than average chance that something special would happen. I actually had enough scratch to go to a bunch of games, and spring training. I've got his jersey from that year stashed somewhere.

While I'm really looking forward to watching him return, and expect someone will be cutting onions nearby when I first see him back in uniform, I'm not fully convinced it's the best decision for the team from a competitive viewpoint.

I hope he can find his peace. He's sure brought a lot of joy to me and other fans.
posted by calamari kid at 7:26 PM on March 7

This is the first I’d heard that he’s coming back to Seattle and now I’m suddenly much more interested in the 2018 baseball season. There’s a lot of aging talent who’ve never won a ring on that Mariners team.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:31 PM on March 7

One thing that was of interest to me in the ESPN piece from the perspective of a scrutinologist: Dee Gordon was Ichiro's most-quoted Marlins teammate. Dee Gordon will be playing center field, next to Ichi, for the Mariners this upcoming season. Kuma's out til midseason, at best; Felix is facing his transition away from dominance, etc etc. I was really hoping we would see Otani, but the choice he made is understandable. My interest in the Mariners grew entirely from my interest in NPB as a recuperative reaction to our Fukushima and Sendai earthquake threads.

For a couple of years after Ichiro left, you could still see the worn patches in right field. The idea that Ichiro is non-neurotypical actually make me feel a greater degree of fan identification with him, as inapproppriate and presumptive as that is.
posted by mwhybark at 9:03 PM on March 7 [2 favorites]

Ichiro has been a favorite player of mine since he entered the league. I was still collecting ball cards back then, and I think somewhere, maybe, I still have his rookie card.

Reading his story, and I'm ashamed to say this is the first time I'm hearing it, my heart aches for him. I hope that he can find whatever he needs to heal his wounded soul.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:38 PM on March 7 [1 favorite]

This is truly of no obvious relevance to the ESPN story, but there is an oblique connection (via Ichi's reported interest in American Negro League players and his role as the first iconic NPB international guy, no disrepect to his NPB vet precursors). I came across it in the comments to a story on Ichiro's return over at USS Mariner.

The Secret History Of Black Baseball Players In Japan
posted by mwhybark at 12:08 AM on March 8 [5 favorites]

My favorite player since Rod Carew. I have a fondness for the guys that swing a bat like a scalpel.
posted by srboisvert at 5:39 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]

Ichiro should have a permanent and well-compensated role giving pep talks to every AL All-Star team until he dies.
posted by delfin at 5:54 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]

He's got a place in my heart for being demonstrably different from any other player who ever played MLB, what with the late start and the huge number of hits anyway -- really only Sam Rice has a similar career.
posted by Quindar Beep at 7:02 AM on March 8

Ichiro should have a permanent and well-compensated role giving pep talks to every AL All-Star team until he dies.

Delfin, thanks, that was awesome. Somehow I'd never heard that before. Also fun how the story gives Ichiro's true size, as opposed to his listed 5'11' and 175 pounds.
posted by martin q blank at 8:23 AM on March 8

So, I saw Ichiro play with the Blue Wave in 95 or 96, I think. It was a school trip, or visiting my brother who was an exchange student out there. He was a _huge_ deal back then. I remember him being a star player who I think was leading the league in hits even then. I was surprised when he came over to the Mariners and remember trying to explain to my die-hard M's friends that it was surprising that his jersey said 'Ichiro' on it, that it would be like if Shaq's jersey said 'Shaq'!

I keep finding myself surprised that he's still going, and glad he's going back home. It'd be great if he could help end their playoff drought.
posted by lkc at 2:04 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]

Ooh, mwhybark, nice link! That is a great article. Except I'm gonna immediately take issue with just one thing: the last paragraph refers to "Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh..." As I bet you know, Oh is Taiwanese-Japanese, and naming him as such in the article could have been a nice hat-tip to the many baseball players in Japan with Chinese and Korean backgrounds (a whole 'nother can of worms).

I'm going to go off on another tangent from Ichiro and remember another player on Ichiro's old team in Japan, Hiroyuki Oze, who killed himself in March 2010 at the age of 24. He was up-and-coming and looked set to do great things, and then suddenly during spring training... . The dark tone of the article about Ichiro brought him to mind again.
posted by huimangm at 4:08 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]

I sure do know that! The point appears, contiguously, to be entirely lost on the ESPN writer, who cites Oh several times without any apparent awareness of how non-Japanese ancestry can affect NBP players both in terms of fan perception and professionally. Currently in the MLB, the best example of this is Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, whose father is a physician who fled the Iranian revolution and settled in Japan. He was also intimately involved in his son's pre-pro career.

The NPB actually has a from-zero fascinating history with regard to non-Japanese ancestry players, Victor Starffin being among the most interesting and surprising.
posted by mwhybark at 8:04 PM on March 8

Oops, missed a summation point here: Ichiro seems to identify with NPB outsiders in a way that is both rationally transparent and surprising.
posted by mwhybark at 8:07 PM on March 8

Victor Starffin, the "blue-eyed Japanese" from Asahikawa! Sure enough. I wonder what he and Ichiro would have talked about if they could've met.
(MeMailing you to keep myself from going too far off topic in this thread, mwhybark ;) )
posted by huimangm at 4:24 AM on March 9

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