April 2, 2001
It’s Opening Day for the 2001 season and a budding international superstar makes his MLB debut for the Seattle Mariners. Safeco Field is still brand new. I’m in 11th grade. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 are still five months away. Life feels immense, open, and full of possibilities. I am eager to shower love and devotion on this exciting new player who has joined my old favorites like Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner. Ichiro smokes a single right up the middle for his first Major League hit in the seventh inning. In the ninth inning, he lays down an excellent bunt on the first base line and makes it to second after the hurried throw by the pitcher goes into right field. Sharp singles and incredible speed on the base paths leading to defensive misplays; it’s a perfect preview of what we would witness over and over again in the next 17 seasons of baseball.
December 25, 2003
My parents give me this book as a Christmas gift.
It sadly contains no quotes on his thoughts about Kansas City in the summer or how he feels about going to Cleveland, but it does have some quotes about his childhood that are very interesting in hindsight considering the darker content contained in the recent ESPN feature.
“Did your father tell you that you had talent as a ballplayer?
Very seldom. He’d occasionally make some offhand comment about it, but that made me so happy, and was a great encouragement.”
October 1, 2004
The Mariners are having an irrelevant season, but Ichiro is in his absolute prime. He hits his 258th hit of the season on October 1, breaking George Sisler’s single season hits record that had stood for 84(!) years. Not one to rest on his laurels, Ichiro would finish the season a few days later with 262 hits. To this day, I think the way he carried himself in the moment and how he went over and shook the hands of all the Sisler family members in attendance is one of the classiest things I’ve ever seen.
2009: Griffey and Ichiro, together at last
In hindsight, this was mostly inconsequential to the team’s actual performance (and also a strange precursor to the Ichiro-related events of 2018). But, at the time it was so much fun to see these two living legends play together on the same team, joke around in the dugout, and hear tales of Griffey sneaking up on Ichiro and tickling him for good luck.
2010: My first Ichiro jersey
I wasn’t much into owning sports jerseys as a teen. However, in my post-college days I found myself drawn back to following the Mariners on a much more in-depth level, a habit that was reinforced by stumbling upon Lookout Landing in 2009. In 2010, I was, as many fans were, ALL IN on the Mariners. Since I had already purchased my glorious Felix navy home jersey, my next jersey purchase was in honor of the team’s veteran and still very productive star, Ichiro. I elected for the road jersey and it’s still one of my very favorite purchases.
July 8, 2010
This fan is all of us.
2011: A decade of 200+ hit seasons
I include this because it still blows my mind every time I read it or hear it. Ichiro is the ONLY MLB player in history to have 10 straight seasons of 200 hits or more. Of all his Hall of Fame-worthy accomplishments, this one sticks out to me as the most impressive. 10 years of dogged determination, preparation, and skillful execution the likes of which hadn’t really been seen before and may never be seen again.
July 24, 2012
I had already made plans to go to the midweek game against the Yankees. I had even packed my Ichiro jersey with me to work to wear later to the game. Oddly enough, I remember I hadn’t worn it yet that season for some reason. I looked in my closet that morning and was like, “Oh, yeah, this’ll do the trick.” The news of the trade breaks on Twitter I leave work. I am befuddled. I head downtown from First Hill, stop at Collins Pub and drink several beers in a sad fugue state before attending the game and watching Ichiro take HIS right field, but for the Yankees instead. Truly one of the oddest game experiences of my life. My brain knew it was the right move for the team, but I was so sad to no longer see Ichiro in a Mariners uniform. Again, a funhouse-mirror-precursor for the events of 2018.
October 4, 2015
Ichiro finally gets to live his dream and make many fan’s dreams come true, too. I am still a little bitter than he never got to pitch in the countless irrelvevant blowouts the Mariners played in over the years, but at the very least we, baseball fans, have footage of Ichiro pitching to the Philadelphia Phillies.
June 23, 2016
I’m at the end of a brutal work trip to Tokyo. I’m exhausted, but my friend and I make plans to visit to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, located in the lower levels of the Tokyo Dome. Ichiro had just eclipsed Pete Rose’s hit record with his combined NPB and MLB hits. I’m overcome with the sheer amount of awe and respect that Ichiro commands in his homeland.
I pick up this magazine that I cannot read as a keepsake. It’s another one of my favorite things.
August 7, 2016
Never one to underwhelm, Ichiro hits a triple at Coors Field for his 3,000th MLB hit. He is 42 years old.
April 2017: Ichiro returns to Safeco Field with the Marlins
Thought by many to be his actual final hurrah, this series was greeted with great fanfare and enthusiasm. The Mariners gave out a dual bobblehead celebrating his 3000th hit and his single season hits record. Casual fans came out of the woodwork to catch a glimpse of their favorite baseball wizard one more time. Two months before this, my daughter Victoria came into the world. April 18th was to be her first Mariners game. I dusted off my Ichiro jersey and wore it to the game, even though he didn’t start. We got Victoria’s first game certificate and everything. The Mariners lost and were nearly no-hit (welcome to our cold reality, my child). The next day, Ichiro cranked a home run over the right field wall in what we all thought would be his last Safeco Field at-bat.
March 29, 2018
It has been 17 years since my first Opening Day with Ichiro in the Mariners lineup. Thanks to a surprising turn of events, Ichiro has rejoined the Mariners and I am fortunate enough to experience Opening Day with Ichiro once more. Today, I experience time travel. During both his pre-game ceremony introduction and during his first at-bat, I close my eyes and let the sound of the sold-out crowd wash over me. The booming, familiar chant of “I-CHI-RO! I-CHI-RO!” absolutely transport me. I go back to 2001. To the days of endless possibility. To the days when my mom was still alive and was captivated by Ichiro’s inscrutable and unique nature. To the day I met my future wife at a game in 2009. To the day I proposed to her on the upper concourse by the Safeco Field sign at the corner of Edgar and Dave. To Ichiro’s Yankee debut. To my daughter’s first Mariners game. To every time I was there in person to cheer along for an Ichiro at-bat. A full career. A full quarter-plus of a lifetime. All happening, all at once, and for eternity in our memories.
Thank you for being a constant, Ichiro. Thank you for being you.