Born: October 22, 1973
Hometown: Kasugai, Japan
Family: Wife, Yumiko
Alternate Position: OF
Ichiro was born on October 22, 1973 in Kasugai Japan. Ichiro now makes his home in Kobe, Japan with his sportscaster wife, Yumiko. The 5’9” lefty ways in at a below average 170 pounds, and his small frame closed some doors for him with the Orix Blue Wave (his Japanese team). This left handed batter was originally a pitcher and hit right handed, until his coach switched him to the other side of the plate to get him closer to first base. Starting at the young age of seven, Ichiro went to his father Nabuyuki, and asked him to help him get better at baseball. The two then began a daily training routine that included doing the following: throwing 50 pitches, hitting 200 pitchers from his father, fielding 50 infield balls and 50 outfield balls, and hitting 250-300 pitches from a pitching machine. It was at the age of twelve, that Ichiro had professional baseball set as his goal. While he was playing Little League, Ichiro had the word shu-chu written on his glove, which is Japanese for concentration. Ichiro said that he didn’t enjoy his training sessions with his father, and they were a struggle, but helped him become the player that he is today. When Ichiro was ready to enter high school, he was selected into Nagoya’s prestigious baseball program, Aikodai Meiden Ko-ko-. During his time there he did drills such as: hitting waffle balls with a heavy shovel and throwing car tires. These exercises improved his wrists and hips and added power and endurance to his slim frame. Ichiro wasn’t drafted until the final round of the professional draft in November 1991 because most teams were put off by his size.After graduating from Aikondai Maiden High School in March of 1992, Ichiro was selected by the Blue Wave and began his career as a professional.
Before Pro Ball In America
Earlier in his professional career, 1994 to be exact, Ichiro changed the name on the back of his jersey from Suzuki, to Ichiro. At first Ichiro said he was embarrassed by the name, but he received lots of publicity and endorsements. Ichiro became one of the most prolific hitters in Japan, dominating seven seasons in the JPL with the Orix Blue Wave. He won seven Gold Glove awards, and three MVP's, while putting up a career average of .353. Ichiro helped lead the Blue Wave to their first Pacific League pennant in 12 years in 1995, winning his second batting title by hitting .342 with 25 home runs, 80 RBIs and 49 stolen bases. The same types of numbers carried over when Ichiro came to the Mariners in 2000. He was posted by the Blue Wave, at it cost the Mariners about 1.4 Billion yen, only $13.125M American to get an oppurtunity to sign him. They wasted no time and had him signed to a three year contract worth $14M, which would make him the first ever Japanese position player to play in the MLB.
A Year to Remember
In Ichiro’s rookie season (2001), he won the Rookie of the Year Award, a Gold Glove (Outfield), made an All-Star Appearance as a starter, set a rookie record for hits (242), won the AL MVP Award, a Silver slugger award (outfield), and led the league with his .350 batting average and 56 stolen bases. Ichiro had created an explosion with the media on both sides of the Pacific. Fans from Japan were taking tours to see games, and ticket and merchandise sales went through the roof at Safeco Field. Ichiro even had his own, “Ichirolls” made in his honor.
Over the next two seasons after his outstanding rookie year, Ichiro continued to shake the American League with Gold Gloves and All-Star appearances in both. Ichiro’s record breaking 2004 season would enough on a Hall of Fame resume, to make Cooperstown. I had never in my life seen so many records broken in one year. On August 26, Ichiro doubled off of Kansas City reliever Jeremy Affeldt to become he first ever MLB player to hit 200 plus hits in each of his first four seasons. Then on August 28, He became the first ever MLB payer in history to have three 50-hit months in one season. Ichiro finished August with 56 hits, the most since Jeff Heath’s 58 in 1938. He batted .463 and won AL player of the month for the first time in his career. On September 17, Ichiro broke the Major League record for singles with his 199th of the season. The total topped the post-modern record of 190 set by Lloyd Warner of the Pittsburg Pirates in 1927. On September 22, he broke Harry Heilmann’s 1925 record for hits on the road (134) with 135.
On Octerber 1, Ichiro achieved one of the hardest records,to achieve, by breaking George Sisler’s single season hit record of 258. Ichiro finished the season with 262 hits. With his 257th hit, Ichiro set the record for most hits over a four year span with 919. Ichiro’s 225 singles blew the previous all-era record of 206 set by Wee Willie Keeler in 1898. Finally, Ichiro’s 704 at bats fell one short of Willie Wilson’s record of 705.
Ichiro's past makes up a tremendous amount of where he is at today. He signed a five year contract extension with the Mariners last summer that will pay him $90M, enough to buy him a few Ichirolls. He is one of the premier players in the game, although his popularity has fallen with the infatuation with power numbers, something that Ichiro doesn't produce too much in. He has been a perenial All-Star all his career. He has also been one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. Last season, Ichiro became the first player ever to hit an inside the park home run at in All-Star Game, earning him the MVP award and a vehicle I think. What Ichiro brings to the game, is far beyond what many have done. His eye at the plate has been compared with Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn's. He calculates every percentage at every at bat, in order to find the place to put the ball in order to get on base. He hits the ball really hard, beyond what the average 170 pounder can do, and combines excellent ability to make contact at the plate, with unbelievable speed on the basebaths, and in the outfield. His range is unheard of. Not to mention his durability, as Ichiro has never been injured throughout his seven year Major League career. Ichiro is cool, calm and collected, and has earned his way in to the Major Leagues' elite group. Ichiro is closing in on 3000 hits in his proffesional career, and could do so this season. If he continues his 200+ hits a season rate, and playes for another 5-7 years, he could very well break Pete Rose's all time hit record. What's in store for the 34 year old Japanese susperstar? Maybe a second playoff appearence, and maybe, just maybe, a ring that has the words 'World Series Champs' on it.