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Ichiro Suzuki

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Ichiro Suzuki
No. 31 - New York Yankees
Ichiro31
Outfielder
Born: October 22, 1973 (1973-10-22) (age 42)
Japan Flag Kasugai, Japan
Bats: Left Throws: Right
MLB debut
April 2, 2001 for the Seattle Mariners
Teams
Career highlights and awards
  • 10x Gold Gloves
  • 10x MLB All Star
  • 3x American League Silver Slugger
  • 3× Right Field Fielding Bible Award
  • 2× AL batting champion
  • 2x World Baseball Classic Champion
  • 2001 AL MVP
  • 2001 AL Rookie of the Year
  • 2005 Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award
  • 2001 AL Stolen Bases Champion
  • 2007 ML AS MVP
  • Single-season hits record (262)
Profile @ Baseball-reference.com

I'm not a big guy and hopefully kids could look at me and see that I'm not muscular and not physically imposing, that I'm just a regular guy. So if somebody with a regular body can get into the record books, kids can look at that. That would make me happy.

Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki (鈴木 一朗 Suzuki Ichirō?), often known simply as Ichiro (イチロー Ichirō?), (born October 22, 1973, in Toyoyama, Nishikasugai, Aichi Prefecture, Japan) is a Japanese outfielder for the Miami Marlins Major League Baseball team.

Ichiro moved to the United States in 2001 after playing nine years for the Orix Blue Wave in Japan's Pacific League. When the Blue Wave posted him after the 2000 season, Ichiro's rights were won by the Seattle Mariners and he signed a contract with them. He became the first Japanese-born everyday position player in the Major Leagues. Ichiro did not miss a beat in his transition. He immediately established himself as one of the premier players in the Major Leagues.

2004 was his most impressive offensive season yet, as he set several MLB records, including a new all-time, single-season Major League record with 262 hits. Ichiro, equipped with one of the strongest and most accurate throwing arms in the league, is generally recognized as one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. He has won a Gold Glove award in each of his first nine years in the majors as an outfielder. Ichiro had a career-high27-game hitting streak in 2009, and reached 200 hits for a record 9th consecutive year and also 9th consecutive year to start career. He is one short of Pete Rose's major league record total of 10 seasons of 200 hits.

Ichiro is the first MLB player to join Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame (The Golden Players Club). He was also selected the 2007 All Star Game MVP, going three for three and hitting the event's first ever inside-the-park home run.

Ichiro is arguably considered today's best hitter for average, although Albert Pujols has now passed him in career batting average, as of late April 2008, Pujols at .332 and Suzuki at .331, after hitting only .252 (30-for-119) in April. He has both tremendous slap-hitting and fielding abilities. In 2001, Ichiro finished first in batting average and stolen bases, the first player to accomplish this feat since Jackie Robinson. He holds many Mariners club records, some of which include most multi-hit games, most infield singles, and most games hit safely.

Early life Edit

At age seven, Ichiro joined his first baseball team and asked his father, Nobuyuki Suzuki (Suzuki Nobuyuki), to teach him to be a better player. The two began a daily routine which included throwing 50 pitches, hitting 200 pitches from Nobuyuki, fielding 50 infield balls and 50 outfield balls, and hitting 250–300 pitches from a machine.

File:Ichiro.jpg

As a Little Leaguer, Ichiro had the word "concentration" (集中 shūchū?) written on his glove. By age 12, he had set professional baseball as his goal and, while he apparently shared his father's vision, he did not enjoy their training sessions. Nobuyuki claimed, "Baseball was fun for both of us," but Ichiro later said, "It might have been fun for him, but for me it was a lot like Star of the Giants," a popular Japanese manga and anime series that told of a young boy's difficult road to success as a professional baseball player, with rigorous training demanded by the father. According to Ichiro, "It bordered on hazing and I suffered a lot."

When Ichiro joined his high school baseball team, his father told the coach, "No matter how good Ichiro is, don't ever praise him. We have to make him spiritually strong." [citation needed] When he was ready to enter high school, Ichiro was selected by a school with a prestigious baseball program, Nagoya's Aikodai Meiden Kōkō, where, unlike as a professional, Ichiro was primarily a pitcher instead of an outfielder, owing to his exceptionally strong arm. While in high school, his cumulative batting average was .505, and his cumulative home run total was 19. Among the strength drills he performed in training there were hurling car tires and hitting wiffle balls with a heavy shovel. These exercises helped develop his wrists and hips, adding power and endurance to his thin frame. Yet, despite the production of outstanding numbers in high school, Ichiro was not drafted until the fourth and final round of the professional draft in November 1991, because many teams were put off by his small size of 5' 9" and 124 pounds. [1]

Career in JapanEdit

Career Hits & Avg in Japan
Season Hits Avg
1992 24 .253
1993 12 .188
1994 210 .385
1995 179 .342
1996 193 .356
1997 185 .345
1998 181 .358
1999 141 .343
2000 153 .387
Total 1278 .353

Ichiro made his Pacific League debut in 1992 at the age of 18, but he spent most of his first two seasons in the farm system because of his manager's refusal to accept Ichiro's unorthodox swing. The swing, nicknamed 'pendulum' because of the pendulum-like motion of his leg, shifting the weight forward as he swung the bat, was considered to go against conventional hitting theory. Even though he hit a home run off Hideo Nomo, who later won the rookie of the year award in the majors leagues as a Dodger, Ichiro was sent back to the farm system on that very day. In 1994, he benefited from the arrival of a new manager who played him every day in the second spot of the lineup. He was eventually moved to the leadoff spot for the Blue Wave, where his immediate productivity dissolved any misgivings about his uncoventional swing. He set a Japanese single-season record with 210 hits in 130 games for a then-Pacific League record .385 batting average and won the first of a record seven consecutive batting titles. He also hit 13 home runs and had 29 stolen bases, helping him to earn his first of three straight Pacific League MVP (Most Valuable Player) awards.

It was during the 1994 season that he began to use his given name, "Ichiro" instead of his family name, "Suzuki" on the back of his uniform. Suzuki is the second most common family name in Japan, and his manager introduced the idea as a publicity stunt to help create a new image for what had been a relatively weak team, as well as a way to distinguish their rising star. Initially, Ichiro disliked the practice and was embarrassed by it; "Ichiro" was a household name by the end of the season and he was flooded with endorsement offers.

In 1995 Ichiro led the Blue Wave to their first Pacific League pennant in 12 years. In addition to his second batting title, he led the league with 80 RBI (runs batted in), hit 25 home runs, and stole 49 bases. By this time, the Japanese press had begun calling him the "Human Batting Machine." The following year, with Ichiro winning his third straight MVP award, the team defeated the Central League champion, Yomiuri Giants, in the Japan Series. Following the 1996 season, playing in an exhibition series against a visiting team of Major League All-Stars kindled Ichiro's desire to travel to the United States to play in the Major Leagues.

In 2000, Ichiro was still a year away from being eligible for free agency, but the Blue Wave were no longer among Japan's best teams. They would probably not be able to afford to keep him and would lose him without compensation in another year, and allowed him to negotiate with Major League clubs. Ichiro used the posting system, and the Seattle Mariners won the right to negotiate with him with a bid of around $13 million.[2] Ichiro signed a three-year, $14 million contract with the Mariners and became the first Japanese position player in the Major Leagues.

In his nine seasons in Japan, Ichiro had 1,278 hits, a .353 career batting average, and in addition to his hitting achievements, won seven Gold Glove Awards.

In January 2006, Ichiro played himself in Furuhata Ninzaburō, a Japanese Columbo-like TV drama that he loves. In the drama, he kills a person and is arrested.

Career in Major League Baseball Edit

Career Hits & Avg in MLB
Statistics as of 10 October 2012
Season Hits Avg
2001 242 .350
2002 208 .321
2003 212 .312
2004 262* .372
2005 206 .303
2006 224 .322
2007 238 .351
2008 213 .310
2009 225 .352
2010 214 .315
2011 184 .272
2012 178 .283
Total 1,632 .332
*MLB Single-Season Record
File:Suzuki Ichiro runs to homeplate.jpg

When I look at the records and see where my place in the history of the game (in Japan with Orix) might be, I guess you could say it was a good decision to come here. It's not just me. Maybe I'll have an effect on others in the international part of the game.

Ichiro Suzuki

On November 9, 2000, Ichiro was acquired by the Seattle Mariners for a contract worth roughly $14 million. Ichiro's move to the United States was viewed with great interest because he was the first Japanese position player to play regularly for a Major League Baseball team. Up to that point, only pitchers from Japan had been playing in the United States and, in the same way that many Japanese teams had considered the 18-year-old Ichiro too small to draft in 1992, many in the US believed he was too frail to succeed against Major League pitching or endure the longer 162-game season. Ichiro made an auspicious debut his first week in the MLB, and revealed his tremendous throwing arm, by gunning down at third base the Oakland Athletics' Terrence Long, who had tried to advance from first to third after a teammate's base hit to right field. That play would be later remembered as "The Throw".[3] Ichiro wears the number 51 which he was issued by the Mariners as he had no preference for a number when he joined the club. He was initially hesitant when he was issued the number. To avoid insulting its former owner, Randy Johnson, Ichiro forwarded a personal message to the Big Unit promising not to “bring shame” to the uniform. Not only did he prove he belonged, Ichiro had a remarkable 2001 season, accumulating 242 hits (the most by any player since 1930 as well as a rookie record) and leading the league with a .350 batting average and 56 stolen bases.

By mid-season, he had produced hitting streaks of 15 and 23 games, been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and created a media storm on both sides of the Pacific. 2001 was also an exceptionally successful regular season for the Seattle Mariners as a team, as they matched the 1906 Chicago Cubs' Major League record of 116 wins.[4] In Seattle, ticket sales (and wins) were higher than ever, fans from Japan were taking $2,000 baseball tours to see the games, more than 150 Japanese reporters and photographers were clamoring for access, and "Ichirolls" were being sold at sushi stands in the ballpark. Flight agencies also benefited from Ichiro, as many Ichiro fans were flying in and out of the country just to see him play.[5]

Aided by Major League Baseball's decision to allow All-Star voting in Japan, Ichiro was the first rookie to lead all players in voting for the All-Star Game. At season's end, he won the American League Most Valuable Player and the Rookie of the Year awards, becoming only the second player in MLB history (after Fred Lynn) to receive both honors in the same season.

In addition to being a nine-time Gold Glove winner, Ichiro is also a nine-time All-Star selection from 2001 to 2009. His success has opened the door for other Japanese players like former Yomiuri Giants slugger Hideki Matsui and former Seibu Lions infielder Kazuo Matsui to enter the Major Leagues. During one 56-game stretch in 2004, Ichiro batted over .450. By comparison, Joe DiMaggio batted .408 during his record-setting 56-game hitting streak. Ichiro batted over .400 against lefties in 2004.

Ichiro is noted for his work ethic in arriving early for his team's games, and for his calisthenic stretching exercises to stay limber even during the middle of the game. Continuing the custom he began in Japan, he uses his given name on the back of his uniform instead of his family name, becoming the first player in Major League Baseball to do so since Vida Blue.

Ichiro's career is followed closely in Japan, with national television news programs covering each of his at bats, and with special tour packages arranged for Japanese fans to visit the United States to view his games. Between 2001 and 2004, Ichiro amassed more hits (922) than anyone in history over any four-year period. Bill Terry held the old record of 918. He would later surpass his own mark by putting up 930 hits from 2004-2007. [6]

Ichiro resides with his wife Yumiko in nearby Medina, an affluent suburb across Lake Washington from Seattle (same neighborhood as Bill Gates). He is in the process of building a new home there.

Record-setting 2004 seasonEdit

Ichiro set a number of Major League records during the 2004 season:

  • August 26: With a double off Kansas City Royals reliever Jeremy Affeldt, Ichiro became the first player in Major League history to reach 200 hits in each of his first four seasons.
  • August 28: He became the first player in MLB history to have three 50-hit months in a single season.[citation needed]
  • August 31: Ichiro finished August with 56 hits, the most since Jeff Heath's 58 in August 1938. [7] He also batted .463 and was named American League Player of the Month for the first time in his career.
  • September 17: He broke the modern major-league record with his 199th single of the season in the seventh. Ichiro bettered the modern (post-1900) record of 198 set by Lloyd Waner of Pittsburgh in 1927.
  • September 21: He broke the all-time major league record with his 207th single of the season. The record-breaking single came in the eighth inning and was Ichiro's fifth of the day. The record of 206 had been held by Wee Willie Keeler of the 1898 Baltimore Orioles.
  • September 22: He broke Harry Heilmann's 1925 record with his 135th hit on the road. It was also arguably Ichiro's hottest streak of the season, as he collected nine hits over two games, 11 hits over three games (both personal season highs), and 13 hits over a four-game span (tying his personal season high).[citation needed]
  • October 1: Ichiro collected his 258th and 259th hits, breaking the record set by George Sisler with the St. Louis Browns in 1920. His 257th hit also set the Major League record for most hits over any four-year span, with 919.
  • October 3: Ichiro completed the 2004 season with 262 hits, 225 singles, and an MLB-leading .372 batting average. He also finished with 145 hits on the road to break Heilmann's 79-year-old record of 134. He led the majors with 57 infield hits.[8] Ichiro's 704 at bats fell one short of Willie Wilson's record of 705 (later broken by Jimmy Rollins in 2007 with 716). The media gave him the nickname "262" in honor of the record.

2005 seasonEdit

File:Ichiro homerun.jpg
  • September 30: In 2005, Suzuki collected over 200 hits for the 5th straight season after going 4 for 5 against the Oakland A's. He became the first player ever to collect 200 hits per season over his first five years in the Major Leagues and just the sixth to do so five consecutive times at any point in his career joining Willie Keeler, Wade Boggs, Chuck Klein, Al Simmons, and Charlie Gehringer. He also hit an MLB career-high 15 home runs.

Inaugural World Baseball ClassicEdit

Ichiro played for the Japan national baseball team in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March of 2006. During the March 15 Japan-Korea game Ichiro was booed by a few spectators during every at-bat, reportedly in response to a previous statement that he wanted "to beat South Korea so badly, that the South Koreans won't want to play Japan for another 30 years."[9] That, however, was an incorrect translation mostly spread to the public through ESPN. Ichiro was variously quoted as saying "I want to win in a way that the opponent would think, 'we cannot catch up with Japan for the coming 30 years.'" as well as "I want to beat the teams in the Asia Round so badly they'll never think of beating Japan for the coming 30 years. The fans can expect a lot from us." However, Korea beat Japan twice out of three times. Japan would later beat Korea in the playoffs and win the tournament after defeating Cuba in the finals, 10-6.[10] Ichiro was one of only two Major League Baseball players on Team Japan, the other being reliever Akinori Otsuka. Throughout the course of the tournament, Ichiro provided twelve hits, seven runs, four stolen bases, and one home run.

2006 seasonEdit

File:IchiroWBC.jpg

In 2006 Ichiro continued his all-star play. After a slow start, which included hitting near the Mendoza Line (a .200 batting average) during the month of April, he rebounded and finished the season hitting .322 (6th in the AL and 11th in the Majors), accumulating 224 hits (leading the Majors), 41 infield hits (leading the majors), 110 runs, and 45 stolen bases (3rd in the AL and 7th in the Majors). Ichiro stole the second most bases of his career (56 in 2001). Ichiro was voted onto the 2006 American League All-Star team by the fans. He started in the outfield for the AL in Pittsburgh, but went 0-3. It was Ichiro's sixth All-Star selection in his six years in the major leagues, and his fifth start (only in 2005 did he not start). On September 16, Ichiro set records in the MLB for hits and stolen bases in a 7-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals. Ichiro stole his AL-Single-Season record 33rd consecutive base. He also had two singles in the game in his first two at bats against Mark Redman. These singles helped him extend his own record of most consecutive 200-hit seasons to begin a career to six. He broke Wade Boggs' record of most hits in a six-year period in MLB.[11] Ichiro also won his sixth straight American League Gold Glove Award, claiming the honor each year since he entered MLB.

2007 seasonEdit

On June 1, 2007, Ichiro hit in his 25th consecutive game, breaking the previous team record set by Joey Cora in 1997. Breaking Tim Raines' 1995 record of 40 consecutive steals, Ichiro stole his 41st consecutive base on May 3. He went on to set a new American League record of 45 consecutive stolen bases without being caught stealing. Because of another excellent start to begin the season, Ichiro was rewarded with another All-Star start by baseball fans.

On July 10, 2007, he became the first player to hit an inside-the-park home run in an MLB All-Star Game after an unpredictable hop off the right field wall of AT&T Park in San Francisco. It was also his first inside-the-park home run in his professional career.[12] Ichiro was a perfect 3-for-3 in the game and was named the most valuable player in the American League's 5-4 victory.

On July 13, Ichiro signed a contract extension with the Seattle Mariners for an additional five years, a contract lasting until 2012.[13] The deal is reported to be worth $90 million, consisting of a $17 million annual salary and $5 million signing bonus, although part of Ichiro's annual salary will be deferred with interest.[14] The Associated Press reported the contract extension Ichiro signed will defer $25 million of the $90 million and the team will not have to fully pay him until at least 2032. The deal will pay Ichiro $12 million salary each year and will defer $5.5 million per season at 5.5 percent. The deferred money will be paid to Ichiro in annual installments, every January 30, beginning the year after he retires. Because of the deferred money, Ichiro's contract will be discounted to $16.1 million. Other provisions in Ichiro's contract include a $32,000 yearly housing allowance that will rise by $1,000 each year and four first-class round trip tickets to Japan each year for his family. He will also be provided with either a new Jeep or Mercedes SUV by the team, as well as a personal trainer and interpreter. On July 29, against the Oakland A's, Ichiro collected his 1,500th major league hit. He is the third fastest to reach this milestone behind Al Simmons and George Sisler.

On September 3, Ichiro hit a home run against New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens to reach 200 hits for the season for the seventh consecutive year. Suzuki is only the third player to do so, following Wee Willie Keeler (1894-1901) and Wade Boggs (1983-1989), and the first to do so starting in their rookie season. He is one of only eight players in Major League history to collect 200 hits in seven seasons. He also became only the fifth player in Major League history to collect 215 hits in four seasons (and the first to do so since 1937). In 2007, he again led the majors in infield hits, this time with 44. Ichiro became the first major league player to collect 230 or more hits in 3 different seasons. Only 3 other players had as many as 2 such seasons - George Sisler, Rogers Hornsby, and [Freddie Lindstrom]].

2008 SeasonEdit

Ichiro Suzuki batted .310, with 213 hits and 103 runs scored. He tied the record of 8 consecutive 200-hit seasons by Willie Keeler (1894-2001), surpassing the modern record of 7 consecutive years by Wade Boggs (1983-1989) and set the record for seasons of 200 hits to start a career (beginning with rookie season). He tied Earle Combs (1925-1932) and Ted Williams (1939-1949, MS 1943-1945) for most consecutive seasons of 100 runs scored beginning with the player's rookie season. Reportedly, Ichiro Suzuki is seeking a trade to a contending team.

2009 SeasonEdit

On April 16, Ichiro got career hit #3086 (Japan + U.S.) to set the record for most hits in professional baseball by a Japanese-born player, breaking the record set by Isao Harimoto.

Batting styleEdit

  • He is well known for his speed and infield hits. The number of infield hits counts as many as 59 during the season of 2004, which tops all major league players.
  • A writer of the New York Times considered the fact that Ichiro prefers connecting to choosing a walk, which increases the number of at-bats, and concluded that he is more likely to break DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak than to register a .400 batting average[15].

Awards in Japan Edit

  • 7-time Best Nine (1994-2000)
  • 7-time Gold Glove (1994-2000)
  • 3-time MVP (1994-1996)
  • 2-time MLA (1994-1995)

Personal lifeEdit

The Japanese name "Ichiro" is often written 一郎, meaning "first son". Ichiro's name, however, is written with a different character, 一朗, so that his name roughly means "brightest, most cheerful". He has an elder brother, Kazuyasu Suzuki, who is a fashion designer.

Ichiro married Yumiko Fukushima, a former TV announcer, on December 3, 1999 at a small church in Santa Monica, California. The couple have no children. They have a pet dog (Shiba Inu) named "Ikkyu". Ichiro suzuki

Photo gallery Edit

See alsoEdit

References Edit

Further readingEdit

  • Allen, Jim. Ichiro Magic. New York: Kodansha America, 2001. ISBN 4770028717.
  • Christopher, Matt, and Glenn Stout. At the Plate With... Ichiro. New York: Little, Brown, 2003. ISBN 0316136794.
  • Dougherty, Terri. Ichiro Suzuki. ?: Checkerboard Books, 2003. ISBN 1591974836.
  • Johnson, Daniel (2006). Japanese Baseball: A Statistical Handbook. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786428414.
  • Komatsu, Narumi, and Philip Gabriel. Ichiro on Ichiro: Conversations with Narumi Komatsu. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2004. ISBN 1570614318.
  • Leigh, David S. Ichiro Suzuki. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2004. ISBN 0822517922.
  • Levin, Judith. Ichiro Suzuki. New York: Chelsea House Publications, 2007. ISBN 0791094405.
  • Rappoport, Ken. Super Sports Star Ichiro Suzuki. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Elementary, 2004. ISBN 0766021378.
  • Rosenthal, Jim. Ichiro's Art of Playing Baseball: Learn How to Hit, Steal, and Field Like an All-Star. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2006. ISBN 0312358318.
  • Savage, Jeff. Ichiro Suzuki. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 2003. ISBN 0822513447.
  • Savage, Jeff. Ichiro Suzuki, revised ed. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 2007. ISBN 0822572664.
  • Shields, David. "Baseball Is Just Baseball": The Understated Ichiro: An Unauthorized Collection Compiled by David Shields. Seattle: TNI Books, 2001. ISBN 0967870313.
  • Stewart, Mark. Ichiro Suzuki: Best in the West. Minneapolis: Millbrook Press, 2002. ISBN 0761326162.
  • Whiting, Robert. The Meaning of Ichiro: The New Wave from Japan and the Transformation of Our National Pastime. Warner Books, 2004; retitled for the 2005 paperback to The Samurai Way of Baseball: The New Wave from Japan and the Transformation of Our National Pastime. ISBN 0446531928, ISBN 0446694037.

External links Edit

Template:AL Rookie of the Year Template:AL MVPs Template:Major League Baseball All-Star Game MVPs

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