Ichiro (full name: Ichiro Suzuki), born on Oct. 22, 1973, is a professional baseball player originally from Aichi prefecture. In the off season of 2000, he became the first Japanese baseball field player to join MLB. He holds the record for most hits in an MLB season (262 hits), and his combined scores from the NPB and MLB give him the world record for most hits in professional baseball. In addition, he also holds the record for most appearances in matches. Along with several other outstanding achievements, Ichiro is truly a one of a kind player.
Ichiro joined the Orix BlueWave (Presently know as: Orix Buffaloes) in the 4th round draft in 1991. When he joined the team, his pendulum swing became a subject of tension between him and the manager, and he bounced on and off the top team. However, Ichiro stuck to his guns and continued to develop his batting form to eventually craft his signature swing.
The turning point was in 1994, when his registration name was changed from Ichiro Suzuki to Ichiro. The team’s new manager, Akira Ohgi, highly valued Ichiro’s reliable batting sense, and when he placed Ichiro in the starting lineup as the no. 2 player, Ichiro didn’t disappoint Ohgi. When he set the a new NPB record for being on base for 69 consecutive matches, he soon after renewed the record for most hits in a season, and eventually he even extended the most hits in NPB to 210 hits.
In addition, he is one the leading hitters with a batting average of .385, he also has the highest OBP, and he has been awarded the Gold Glove, Best Nine awards. On top of that, he was the youngest batter in NPB history to receive the MVP Award.
The following year, in January of 1995, the Great Hanshin earthquake occurred, which caused severe damage to both the team’s home field and to the city of Kobe. That year, the Orix Blue Wave started their season with the slogan “Ganbaro KOBE.”
Suzuki, as the symbol of Kobe’s restoration, had achieved amazing results with a batting average of .342, 104 runs batted in, 49 stolen bases, 179 hits and OBP .432. He also earned titles like: Leading Hitter, RBI King, Base Stealing King, Most Hits and Highest OBP. In his second consecutive year as MVP, Best Nine and Gold Glove winner, he led his team on to dominate the Pacific League. The next year, in 1996, Orix won the Pacific League championship again, and Ichiro won the title for Leading Hitter for the 3rd year in a row, as well as achieving the most hits, highest OBP, and becoming the MVP of the season.
Even after that, in 1999, during his 757th match he achieved his 1000th hit, which was the fastest in NPB’s history. In 2000, with a batting average of .387, he was named the leading batter in NPB for the 7th consecutive year. What is more, he achieved the unprecedented feat of winning the Gold Glove and Best Nine awards for 7 years straight.
In the off season of 2000, he announced his intention to try his might in MLB through the posting system. Seattle Mariners acquired the sole rights to negotiate the first Japanese player through the posting system, and thus Ichiro became the first Japanese field player to play in MLB.
Before moving to the major leagues, many question the capabilities of a Japanese position players, but when Ichiro became a regular member in the 2001 opening match against the Oakland Athletics, he quickly produced two hits and scored 1 point. Even after that he continued to pile up hits. He managed to get 242 hits that season, renewing the rookie-record for most hits. On top of that, he earned several titles, such as: Rookie of the Year, MVP, Leading Hitter, Base Stealing King, the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove award, etc.
In addition, while he was a member of the Mariners, he participated in the Japanese national team for the 2006 and 2009 WBC, where he was a big contributor to both championship victories. Especially the 2009 final moment against South Korea is widely praised by fans to this day, when in the top of the 10th inning Ichiro brought home 2 runners with his hit in front of center field.
Suzuki stayed with the Mariners until the middle of the 2012, and during that time he broke George Sisler’s world record for most hits in a season by 5 hits, setting the new record at 262 hits. As well as achieving 2000 overall hits in MLB, tying with Pete Rose for 1st place for having 10 consecutive years with 200 hits. Ichiro continued to show his skills in MLB as the no.1 Japanese batter.
On the 23rd of July 2012, Ichiro was traded to the New York Yankees. He had hit his personal lowest record of 178 hits in a regular season, but since the team won their regional, they had the first champagne celebration in the major leagues.
In the off season of 2014, he became a free agent, and in January of 2015 he signed a one year contract with the Miami Marlins. He fell into a slump for a while, going hit less for 34 at bats, which might have been a sign of age catching up to him, but in 2016, with his combined hits from NPB and MLB, he broke Pete Rose’s 4256 hit record for most hits in MLB. He added 500 total stolen bases to his list of records, and he became the 30th person in history to achieved 3000 hits in MLB.
In November of 2017, Ichiro’s contract with the Miami Marlines expired and he left the team and signed a one-year contract to return to the Seattle Mariners.