Ichiro Suzuki took a final bow in the eighth inning and the Seattle Mariners worked overtime to send him out a victor, claiming a 5-4 victory in 12 innings to sweep the two-game set from the Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome on Thursday. He had 1,278 before that in Japan, making him baseball's all-time hits leader.
"I don't think it is an understatement to say that Ichiro has had a bigger impact on the way Americans view Japan that really any other single person", Jim Small, the Major League Baseball worldwide vice-president, told Reuters before Ichiro's announcement.
A sellout of 45,000 turned out again to watch Ichiro and Mariners rookie pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, who made his first start in the majors. It lasted an incredible 84 years - until Ichiro came along.
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"He's been in the big leagues for 19 years and he's doing the same thing, representing not just the Seattle Mariners organization but also Japan and opening doors to that market", Pujols told the Japanese media in Tempe, Arizona.
Absolutely no one took umbrage to the idea, and perhaps this Tokyo trip - and Ichiro's role in it - was being eyed from the beginning, so it made sense that he remained around the team previous year and during the offseason. "It's frustrating to lose games, we'll regroup and get back into spring training mode and get back in the season", A's manager Bob Melvin said.
Ichiro retires from baseball as one of the most successful players to ever take the diamond.
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George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns had 257 hits for the St. Louis Browns in 1920, setting a major league record. That unconventional homer helped him become the second Mariners player to win the All-Star Game MVP award, following in the footsteps of Griffey.
Suzuki carried the burden of an entire country in coming to the United States, and his success created opportunity for the countless others who have followed. Suzuki hit.205 in 44 at-bats and all nine of his hits last season were singles. His influence and importance shouldn't be understated.
Kikuchi, who went to the same high school as Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, made his second pro start at the Tokyo Dome.
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Ichiro's storied 27-year career ended with a dramatic exit in the eighth inning.
But it quickly became apparent that the veteran was at the end of his usefulness on the playing field - he hit.205 over 15 games -and in May he transitioned from the active roster into a role as special assistant, albeit one that still took batting practice and remained a fixture around the clubhouse. If they did, Ichiro would be hitting.065.
As word spread through the crowd of 46,451 at Tokyo Dome, the applause for Suzuki grew each time he went to the plate or took his position in the field. Too often, Suzuki looked like a 45-year-old trying to hang on.
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