Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has announced his retirement from Major League Baseball.
The 45-year old Mariners legend bid adieu to the game upon the conclusion of the 2019 Opening Series in Tokyo, Japan on Thursday night in the Far East. Suzuki started both games in right field for Seattle against the Oakland Athletics after he was added to the big league roster for the series back in his homeland.
Manager Scott Servais called Ichiro off the field as the team took its places defensively for the bottom of the eighth inning. The team quickly came off the field to the Seattle dugout as Ichiro received a massive extended ovation from the capacity crowd at the Tokyo Dome. Ichiro received hugs and handshakes from the entirety of the Mariners' roster with a few players, such as Dee Gordon and Yusei Kikuchi, visibly tearing up.
“I have achieved so many of my dreams in baseball,” Ichiro said in a statement released by the team after the game, “both in my career in Japan and, since 2001, in Major League Baseball. I am honored to end my big league career where it started, with Seattle, and think it is fitting that my last games as a professional were played in my home country of Japan.
“I want to thank not only the Mariners, but the Yankees and Marlins, for the opportunity to play in MLB, and I want to thank the fans in both the U.S. and Japan for all the support they have always given me.”
Ichiro took Major League Baseball by storm after signing with the Mariners in 2001. Despite being 27 years old when he crossed the Pacific Ocean, he won the American League MVP as a rookie, posting a .350 batting average with 242 hits and 56 stolen bases. All three marks led the American League.
Ichiro would win a second AL batting title in 2004 as he set a Major League Baseball record with 262 hits in a season, surpassing the 257 hits of George Sisler set in 1920 with the St. Louis Browns. He made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove in each of his first 10 seasons in Seattle. He would post 10 straight 200-hit seasons after becoming the first Japanese position player to move to the majors.
Prior to making the move to Seattle, Ichiro had already become a baseball legend in Japan. In nine seasons with the Orix Blue Wave of Kobe, Japan in the Nippon Professional Baseball league. He was a seven-time All-Star (1994-2000), three-time league MVP (1994-1996), won seven straight batting titles and Gold Gloves from 1994-2000. He posted a career .353 batting average in the NPB with 1,278 hits, 118 home runs, 529 RBIs and 199 stolen bases before ever coming to MLB.
Ichiro's major league career concludes with a lifetime .311 batting average, 3,089 hits, 117 home runs, 780 RBIs and 509 stolen bases in parts of 19 seasons in the majors. His combined 4,367 hits between the NPB and MLB is over 100 hits more than Pete Rose's 4,256 hits, which serves as the standalone MLB record.
Having played two regular season games in 2019, Ichiro will not be eligible for the Hall of Fame until 2026 where he will almost certainly be a first-ballot inductee.
During his 12th season with Seattle, the Mariners traded Ichiro to the New York Yankees in late-July 2012. He would spend two-and-a-half seasons in pinstripes before moving on to the Miami Marlins for the next three seasons. At age 42 with the Marlins in 2016, Ichiro still posted a .292 batting average in 143 games with Miami.
Ichiro re-signed with Seattle in 2018 and made the 25-man roster coming out of spring training. However, he would play in just 15 games over the first month of the season before the team moved him off the roster and into a role titled "Special Assistant to the Chairman." He had hit just .205 with nine hits - all singles - in 44 at-bats. Though he continued to take batting practice with the team throughout the season, he was ineligible to return to the roster.
Ichiro signed a minor-league deal with the Mariners in January with an eye on playing in the Opening Series against the A's. He played into the fourth inning of the opener, going 0 for 1 with a walk. In his final game with the Mariners, Ichiro was 0 for 4 with a final ground out to shortstop Marcus Semien that just beat him to the bag. His last base hit came off of Martin Perez of the Texas Rangers on Apr. 22, 2018. His first hit came off T.J. Mathews of the Oakland A's on Apr. 2, 2001.
Braden Bishop came on defensively to replace Ichiro and made his MLB debut in the process. He went to center with Mitch Haniger moving to right field in the eighth.
Photo Credit: TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 21: Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners waves to fans prior to the game between Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome on March 21, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)