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Ichiro is just like (most of) us

One of the many touching moments of Saturday night was the Mariners' penultimate star paying tribute to its greatest.

Otto Greule Jr

I imagine most of you have seen it but in case you didn't:

I'm fairly certain that's more English from Ichiro in 51 (!)  seconds than we got in 11+ years in Seattle.  The exacting and deliberate nature of his words definitely back up the notion that Ichiro was just never comfortable trying to speak a language other than his native Japanese outside of the closed door environment of the clubhouse.  It is a testament to his intense admiration and affection for Griffey that he made the effort.

Ichiro was and always will be a divisive character.  He replaced Griffey as the team's icon and oversaw an era of losing, while remaining distant from the fanbase for reasons both understandable and confusing.  I think fundamentally at his core Ichiro is probably a highly fastidious personality.  This is a person who's devotion to craft down to minute detail is legendary.  His treatment of his bats is just one avenue you can google through an afternoon reading about.  Nothing about Ichiro has ever seemed impromptu, unrehearsed, or unplanned.  He just always seemed not quite real.

Consider, if you will, this article and the glimpse it provides into Ichiro, the boy.  Think about the environment that Ichiro grew up in. In essence he went to one of those Eastern European schools where children are sent to become Olympic athletes only he never left home and the only student at school was himself, and his father was his task master.  I'm not decrying the way Ichiro spent his childhood but it is without question not something easily related to by 99% of American baseball fans.

Still, Ichiro had a hero, and that hero was the same one as a lot of us growing up: It was Ken Griffey Jr. That fact bridges language and culture.  Even through the baseball-as-military-training-childhood,  Ichiro was just a kid awed by The Kid. Just like me, maybe just like you.

In 4-5 years the Mariners will induct Ichiro into the Mariners Hall of Fame.  It will have all the same pretenses, characters and form as last Saturday but only a fraction of the soul.  Ichiro was a clinical surgeon, dispassionately and routinely going through the daily grind of baseball silently and at times seemingly grimly.  That style of play never did and never will lead to the kind of warmth that Griffey's smile, home runs and backwards hat elicited.  But at some point during a largely procedural ceremony Ken Griffey will show up either on screen or in person.  He'll make jokes and tell stories about Ichiro.  It will be the crowds favorite part of the night. And it will also be Ichiro's.


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