Ichiro Suzuki, a Japanese professional baseball player, known for his unbelievable hitting and throwing. At first glance, Ichiro does not look like a strong player, but he really makes the crowd go wild.

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Seattle Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki gives a tug to his jersey sleeve, as he does every at-bat, while stepping in against the Texas Rangers in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 15, 2012, in Seattle. Suzuki flied out on the turn. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

 

Ichiro, the second son of Yoshie and Nobuyuki Suzuki, grew up in the small town of Toyoyama, near the city of Nagoya in central Japan. Baseball was part of Ichiro’s life ever since he was in nursery school. His oldest memories are when he was three, and his father made him the gift of a baseball and a red leather baseball glove. He remembers watching the games of Nagoya professional team his father’s beloved Chunichi Dragons. And by the time he started elementary school, he had already knew all the rules of the game. He was defiantly put into his father’s team in the little league even though he was very small and underage, but nobody said anything about it because he was just that good.

 His father, Nobuyuki, advised Ichiro to join the soccer team because his school didn’t have baseball. Ichiro begged not to and ask his dad to give him baseball lessons instead. Nobuyuki agreed, only if Ichiro put in the effort. From that point on Nobuyuki would leave his shop every afternoon to practice baseball with his son.

Each afternoon, Ichiro would practice the mechanics of pitching, fielding, and hitting. Hitting showed to be the biggest challenge for Ichiro. He was missing a lot of balls, so to improve, Nobuyuki had to toss him balls from a few feet away. He started hitting the ball more, but it got too easy, too fast. So Nobuyuki came up with the alternative: “Life and death” toss. Instead of standing by the side, Nobuyuki would stand a few yards directly in front of Ichiro who is now forced to learn to hit the ball where he wanted in order to avoid hitting his father. They started with rubber balls but by the time Ichiro was in 5th grade then switch to hard balls which could definitely kill Nobuyuki. At this point, Ichiro was the best player on the local little league team.

After a year of healing on crutches from getting knocked off his bicycle during his second-year-high school, he picked up some bad pitching habits he got back into it. The pitcher he had once been has faded away and would be hard for him to recover. But his hitting made up for this, and when the pro draft came, the scouts were struggling to find him a team. Ichiro finally got selected in the fourth round by the Orix BlueWave of Kobe, a farm team in 1992. Nobuyuki was disappointed that you did not get picked earlier in the draft and got into the Chunichi Dragons. BlueWave was not a well-known team. And this concerned Ichiro, as he wanted to become a pro baseball player.In the early stages of the 1994 season Ichiro found that he had an enormous advantage over the pictures he faced. The new only of this unimpressive Pacific League statistics. But because no one considers the players and minor league performance to be significant teams played a little attention to the small outfielder.

Ichiro’s career batting average in the PL was a puny .226 with almost no power and no walks. So pitchers challenged him, and Ichiro made them pay. He then hit 4 of his 13 home runs of the season within the first 17 games. The words began to spread and the fans were amazed. This young man was hitting .400 and breaking the 200 hit barrier for the first time ever in Japan’s short season with 210 hits, 19 more than the previous record.

By the end of the 1994 season, Ichiro’s batting average was at .385 and he had brought BlueWave 4000 more fans to attend each game. He was named the Pacific league’s MVP, and continued to for the next two season.

As part of the working agreement with the Seattle Mariners, the BlueWave sent Ichiro along with a handful of other players to the Mariner’s camp at Peoria, Arizona. Ichiro was excited to get closer to the big leagues, but he was lacking confidence in his hitting since 1994 and he is not due to becoming a free agent until after the 2001 season.

2001 came, and although a lot of Japan didn’t think Ichiro would do well in the major leagues, Ichiro knew what he was doing. Out of half of the thirty major league teams putting in a bid for Ichiro, the Mariners won the bid with $13,125,000. Ichiro had a lot of missed hits in his first few games showed that this was not the hitter the Mariners had in mind. Ichiro had to prove to America what he was capable of, so if it wasn’t hit hitting, it would be his catching and throwing and he proved to them by trying to catch a foul fly, but the ball got stolen by a fan. The umpires calling it out due to fan interference, but Ichiro reported that he definitely would’ve had the ball.

As the 2001 All-Star Game was came, Ichiro became the first rookie to lead all players in both the American league and the National League to for him, putting him on as the starting hitter of the game. “I did not expect or imagine that I would be a starter in the All-Star Game. This is my first year in the major leagues and the All-Star Game is in Seattle, so it meant a lot to me. I have only been here for only three months, but the people appreciate my talent.”

Batting leadoff for the American League Ichiro smash the second picture of the game off of Randy Johnson, towards Todd Helton, behind first base. Johnson tried race over to cover first, but it was too late, Ichiro’s speed beat him there. “First of all I’m very honored to face Randy in the All-Star Game, rather than the fact that I got a base hit off him, Randy is a great picture and he was a mariner and wore No. 51 before me one of the things I always keep in mind is to wear this No. 51 with good dignity.” And that is something you don’t hear a lot of from sport stars.

Ichiro credits much of his development as a player to his father’s effort and dedication to Japanese baseball. Definitely, the “life and death” toss batting was a teaching tool that no one with professional experience would have come up with.

 

Ichiro currently a right fielder for the Miami Marlins of the MLB.

 

Accomplishments and Awards, MLB (2001):

  • Ichiro became the first Japanese-born position player to be posted and signed to the major leagues.
  • Second player in MLB history to receive both honors in the same season:
    • American League MVP
    • American League Rookie of the Year
  • Silver Slugger Award (best offensive player in each position)
  • MLB batting champion
  • Gold Glove Award (best defensive player in each position)
    • led to giving right field the label of Area 51 (also Ichiro’s jersey number) where the unexpected has been unknown to occur.
  • First player to collect at least 200 hits per season in each of his first five years in the Major Leagues
  • Most hits by rookie, season: 242
  • Most games with one or more hits, season: 135
  • Most singles by rookie, season: 192