Ichiro Suzuki and Jay Bruce shaking hands in Japan, Mar. 20, 2019 (Photo via: AP Photos/Turo Takahasi. Forbes.com)
March 25, 2019 — Spring has sprung and baseball season is back! Filled with fans, the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics traveled to the Tokyo Dome last week to start the season in Japan.
Why Tokyo? The MLB has hosted opening games abroad a few other times; Australia in 2014 and Japan in 2012. Plus, baseball has been popular in Japan for years. There are many famous athletes, such as the newly retired Ichiro Suzuki, who have come from Japan to play in the US MLB.
Suzuki is a Japanese outfielder who spent nine years in the Japanese major leagues and 14 with the Seattle Mariners. Suzuki was the first Japanese-born position player to be signed to the MLB. Following the second game agains the A’s Suzuki received a standing ovation from the crowd, and announced his retirement.
“I have achieved so many of my dreams in baseball,” Ichiro said in a statement released by the team. “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.” (Bloom, B. – Forbes.com)
Unfortunately the A’s lost both games in Japan. But, Stephen Piscotty hit the first home run centerfield at the bottom of the first. About three innings later, Domingo Santana was up to bat, hit the first beautiful grand slam of 2019 bringing the Mariners up 5-2.
Win or lose the celebration of this series was for Suzuki’s fantastic baseball career: 4,367 career hits, 3,089 MLB hits, 509 stolen bases, the list goes on. (Greenberg, C. SB Nation) Watching the fans commemorate Suzuki’s career in Japan, in real time was something to remember. The season started strong for the Mariners, hopefully the A’s will figure out the right roster for their first game in the US against the Angels on 3/28.