After 19 seasons, Mariners legend Ichiro retires
Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, beloved by fans in the Pacific Northwest, nationwide, and internationally, ended his professional baseball career Thursday where he started it in 1992 — in his native Japan.
Following the Mariners’ final of a two-game set against the Oakland A’s in Tokyo to open the 2019 major league season, Ichiro announced he would retire from his active playing career.
After grounding out in his final plate appearance in the top of the eighth, he took the field alone — in his familiar place in right field — for the bottom half of the inning.
And, after a short pause, he was ceremoniously ushered back in to the dugout by teammates and coaches, as tears flowed and the crowd of 46,451 at the Tokyo Dome met him with a standing ovation.
“I have achieved so many of my dreams in baseball,” Ichiro told reporters 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, 45, began his professional baseball career with the Japan Pacific League’s Orix Blue Wave in 1992, and spent nine seasons there, recording 1,278 hits. Paired with his 3,089 hits as a major-league player — which rank 21st on the all-time list — he finishes his career with 4,367.
He also leaves as the active major league hits leader with the 3,089. He became one of 31 players in MLB history to reach the 3,000 career hits mark with a triple on Aug. 7, 2016. He is also one of seven players to reach that batting milestone, and collect 500 stolen bases in his career.
Ichiro spent the first 12 seasons of his major league career with the Mariners — the club he is eventually projected to enter the Hall of Fame with as a first-ballot entrant — that started with a breakout performance in 2001.
He was named the American League Rookie of the Year and MVP that first year in pacing the Mariners to their most recent trip to the playoffs, and started a string of 10 consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits, including setting the single-season major league record with 262 in 2004.
His 10 consecutive Golden Glove Awards between 2001-10 were the most among active players. He also made 10 consecutive All-Star trips during that span.
Before returning for his final stint with the Mariners in 2018 to close his career, Ichiro spent several seasons with the New York Yankees (2012-14) and Miami Marlins (2015-17).