by Alex Poletti
In honor of Ichirio’s retirement, The Second String dug into our archives to find this article from early Spring Training:
The baseball world is in mourning after baseball icon Ichiro Suzuki died in a car accident Monday morning on his way to the Seattle Mariners’ spring training complex in Peoria. However, the superstar outfielder has made it clear that this will not deter him from fighting for a spot on the extended 28-man roster for Opening Day in Tokyo.
“I know that death stops a lot of players from competing at a high level,” Ichiro said through interpreter and medium Allen Turner, “but it’s just another obstacle I’m ready to overcome.”
Amid speculation that he might retire after taking the title of “assistant to the chairman” last year, Ichiro checked into spring training ready to compete; according to Greg Johns of MLB.com, the 2001 AL MVP had the lowest body fat percentage of any Mariners player. A source told The Second String that he is now also the lightest, thanks to the loss of three limbs in the lethal accident.
“Ichiro has overcome similar issues in the past,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in an exclusive interview with The Second String, “so I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes it out of death and has a couple of ABs in Japan.”
Dipoto did admit that no player has successfully come back from death to play Major League Baseball, but he has faith that the single-season hit king can be the first.
“Look, this guy has had the odds stacked up against him his entire life,” Dipoto explained. “He’s a grinder. Even without three limbs, blood circulation or any vital signs, this guy can still rake.”
Indeed, just hours after the crash that tragically took his life, Ichiro was seen taking swings in the cage with teammate Kyle Seager.
“He came to practice a little banged up today, that’s for sure,” Seager admits. “But he’s never been the kind of guy to let that stuff get to him. He just keeps on playing his game, and you’ve gotta respect him for that.”
Ichiro is no stranger to bounce-back seasons, producing a .291/.354/.376 slash line in 2016 after an abysmal first season with the Marlins. However, he only played 15 games with the Mariners in 2018, fueling speculation that his playing career might be over.
“I’m not done yet,” said a dead Ichiro with a smile. “Right now, I have my sights on Japan, but that’s not the end.”
Ichiro passed away Sunday, February 17 at 8:00 a.m. in Peoria. Currently, he has 3,089 major league hits, tops among active MLB players.