It’s really, really happening. The former MVP and All-Star Ichiro Suzuki, now fully into the “Old Man Logan” stage of his career, is back with the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners took the time to roll out a good old fashioned press conference today in Peoria for the franchise legend, which I think was a very classy and fun move by the team. You can watch the whole press conference here:
Flanked by Manager Scott Servais, GM Jerry Dipoto gave an quick introduction and overview of Ichiro’s career milestones before opening the floor for questions, first in English and then turning it over to the Japanese press members. Ichiro was looking sharp, if slightly conservative, in a black suit and silver-ish tie. Dapper, as always.
The following is a mixture of paraphrased responses and direct quotes as gathered by the Mariners beat writers and reporters.
First question was from Larry Stone on how Ichiro feels about coming back to the Mariners. After a long pause and heavy sigh, he went over how hard it was to leave in 2012, and how happy he is to return to where his MLB career started. He said Seattle has been home for him for a long time.
Shannon Drayer mentioned how Ichiro had stated that he wants to play until he’s 50 and asked him about how he feels about getting that chance to keep on playing. As part of his response, Ichiro had to clarify something:
Ichiro "I want to make sure that everyone understands when I say I want to play until I am 50, I mean I want to play until I am at least 50."— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 7, 2018
Was he joking? Who knows? He’s Ichiro!
Jerry Dipoto was asked about how the deal came about and he joked that he talked more with Ichiro’s agent John Boggs this offseason than with his wife. Jerry also outed himself as the GM in this brand new ESPN feature as the one who called Bogg’s “the Elephant Hunter.”
When asked what is left for him to accomplish, Ichiro emphasized that it’s less about him and more that he wants to focus on how he can help the Seattle Mariners the most.
A big smile crept over Ichiro’s face when asked about reuniting with former teammates like Robinson Cano, Edgar Martinez, and David Phelps, and he continued to light up during his answer. Regarding Phelps, who has been his teammate at some point during each of the last seven seasons, Ichiro said when he saw Phelps come to Seattle last season, he said he thought, “Since David Phelps was here, maybe I’ll come back, too.” Again, maybe he’s being glib here, but maybe not!
On Shohei Ohtani:
Ichiro on Shohei Ohtani's maturity: "Obviously the age difference, I'm like a father and he's like the son. But mentally, he’s like the father and I’m like the son.”— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) March 7, 2018
Ichiro went on to talk about having to look at the lineup card for first time in his MLB career after he left Seattle and how it was a tough adjustment that was compared to his usual routine of being an everyday player in Seattle. More on this from Shannon:
Ichiro said that after the trade to NY he had to look at lineup cards for the first time. He came to the park, sometimes to at bats, not knowing what would happen. In the process, he learned to adapt. It was valuable experience that gives him the ability to do so now.— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 7, 2018
A few more highlights:
Ichiro: "I'm a little worried some of those guys in there (the clubhouse) will be my children’s ages, but once I get on the field and they see me play, I hope I can get right in there with the kids and perform with them."— Larry Stone (@StoneLarry) March 7, 2018
Ichiro: "This is my home and has always been my home."— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) March 7, 2018
Ichiro said in his last at bat at Safeco he thought he would play there again. "I know I have to do what I have to do on the field. I am hoping the fans will say welcome home."— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) March 7, 2018
Overall, it was a quaint little affair with no real shocking revelations, but I enjoyed seeing Ichiro again stoically listening and answering questions thoughtfully and comprehensively as only he can. Huge thank you to Shannon Drayer, Greg Johns, Larry Stone, and all media members for the excellent live coverage. As a wise man once said, “You da real MVPs.” Now comes the fun part as we await his first action in Spring Training. Go Ichiro and Go Mariners.