KYOTO — Ichiro Suzuki formally became a member of the Seattle Mariners on Sunday with the announcement that the former Orix BlueWave outfielder has concluded a three-year contract with the American League team.
Financial details of the contract were not immediately revealed.
The seven-time Pacific League batting champion will wear uniform No. 51 for the Mariners and will be registered as “Ichiro,” the name by which he is most commonly known in Japan.
Suzuki told reporters at a press conference in Kyoto that he was feeling tense about becoming the first position player from Japan to join the North American major leagues, but he added, “Being able to play for Seattle is the realization of a dream.”
Baseball analysts in Japan and the United States figure that the 27-year-old Suzuki will likely find a home in right field at Safeco Field in Seattle and bat first or second in the Mariners’ line-up.
Sunday’s press conference was held at the headquarters of Nintendo Co. in Kyoto, with company president Hiroshi Yamauchi, one of the owners of the Mariners, along with the Seattle team’s chief executive officer Howard Lincoln and Suzuki’s agent Tony Atanacio.
With the conclusion of the deal, Suzuki becomes the 11th Japanese player to go to the major leagues and will join American League rookie of the year and ace closer Kazuhiro Sasaki in the Mariners’ clubhouse.
Seattle, which advanced to the American League Championship Series this past season before falling to the New York Yankees, won exclusive negotiating rights to Suzuki with a bid of over $13 million, which will now be paid to the BlueWave.