• Kyodo

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Japan’s baseball fans rejoiced after Miami Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki on Sunday reached the career milestone of 3,000 major league hits, praising his dedication and calling him an example for young children.

In his hometown in Aichi Prefecture, Ichiro’s father, Nobuyuki Suzuki, could not contain his excitement.

“He really did a good job,” the elder Suzuki, 73, told reporters outside his home in Toyoyama, asking his 42-year-old son not to be satisfied yet.

“He said he wants to play until he is 50 … and I hope he will enjoy the majors and really does play until he is 50, even if others may laugh at him for playing so long,” his father said.

As newspaper extras trumpeting the feat were handed out in Tokyo, his former teammates also celebrated.

Koji Okumura, who played with Ichiro when he was with the Orix BlueWave, said he remembered him saying he had been satisfied with only about five of the 210 hits he recorded in 1994.

“The level of effort he gave stood out,” the 44-year-old Okumura said. “Three thousand hits is not a figure anyone can aim for.”

Tomohiro Kawamura, 43, one of Ichiro’s teammates in elementary and junior high school, responded to the news with joy. “I just want to say congratulations to him.”

Kawamura, who now manages Ichiro’s former youth team, said his former teammate could throw harder and run faster than any of his peers when he was a kid.

“For Ichiro, this is just a passing point,” said Yoshiko Sakamoto, 49, who was a nutritionist for the Orix BlueWave between 1995 and 1997. “Without any injuries, I believe he can extend his record even more.”

Sakamoto said Ichiro closely followed her dietary advice, unlike many other young players. She heard him say several years ago that he would retire if his belly started protruding, but she believes he is still in excellent physical condition and “far from retirement.”

“He will be an encouraging presence for children to follow,” she added.

At Toyoyama City Hall, residents gathered to celebrate the star’s accomplishment, hanging a congratulatory banner on the outside of the building.

“I want to be a pro baseball player in the future and win a title like Ichiro,” said 12-year-old Shoto Tabata, captain of a local junior baseball team.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga praised Ichiro’s landmark hit, which came in the finale of a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies.

“The long-awaited moment has come,” he said. “I want to pay tribute to him for setting a shining record in Japanese and U.S. baseball.”

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