• Kyodo


In 2010, Ichiro Suzuki extended his major league record for consecutive 200-hit seasons to 10.

The Seattle Mariners star also tied Pete Rose’s career mark of 10 200-hit seasons while making his 10th All-Star Game appearance and winning his 10th Gold Glove.

His team, though, suffered yet another disappointing season, finishing last in the AL West — 29 games behind the American League champion Texas Rangers.

Ichiro has been piling up hits at a pace no one else has matched in the history of baseball.

But the Mariners have not reached the postseason since 2001, when they won a major league record-tying 116 games in Ichiro’s rookie year.

In a recent interview with Kyodo News, Ichiro shared his thoughts on his 10th season in the major leagues.

You had high expectations for your team at the beginning of the season, but it turned out to be a disappointing year.

When Randy Johnson threw out the ceremonial first pitch in our season home opener, he was joined on the mound by Dan Wilson, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Junior (Ken Griffey Jr.). It was good to see them all together but at the same time made me wonder if there is a real teammate for me. I hoped that Felix (Hernandez) or (Chone) Figgins would become one and that 2010 would be the start of a new Mariners era. But we stumbled from the outset.

Griffey abruptly ended his career by announcing his retirement (on June 2). Was it the thing that surprised you most this year?

He had a Hall of Fame career. It seems as if he’s living a life of his own, but indeed he is a person who takes good care of others. It was hard to see such a great player have to leave the field in despair.

I never thought I would have a chance to play alongside Junior on the same team. It was so special to spend time with him.

The Mariners suffered 101 losses for the second time in three seasons. The 2010 team consisted mainly of young players.

Most members of the 2008 team are gone, so everyone knows the situation is not the same. But I’ve been a member of the Mariners the past 10 seasons. After all this time, I wonder why we still lose this many games.

In recent years, the team has followed brief success with long downward slides.

The whole team had high hopes for the 2010 season because we thought we made good additions to the roster (such as left-hander Cliff Lee and second baseman Figgins). And we ended up like this. From now on, maybe we shouldn’t even voice our goals.

You had your lowest batting average and number of hits ever in July. You had a hard time in the summer this year.

I wasn’t in good form since April, so I knew I was going into a slump sooner or later. But the down time came later than I thought. I don’t know why I managed to get hits in the first few months of the season. Every year, April is the month to get used to live pitching. I often have a good year after struggling in April. If I do well in April, it gets hard for me to decide whether I need to make adjustments to my mechanics. Things get even harder if I find problems late in the season. Hitting is always an adjustment. The word “difficult” is not enough to explain what hitting is. Hitting is never easy.

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Ichiro also looked back at the start of his major league career 10 years ago.

I wanted to play in the majors as early as possible. The posting system was the only way for me. I imagined that I would have a hard time if I had to wait until I became a free agent.

Your agent, Tony Attanasio, has said you were prepared to accept anything — from the team to contract terms — to play in the major leagues.

Under the posting system, you can’t pick your team and you have a limited time for negotiations. It looks like an unfavorable system for players. But back then I hadn’t done anything in the United States. I couldn’t ask my club (the Orix BlueWave) for permission to go to the majors unless I was ready to take risks.

A lot of Japanese players have come to the major leagues since you came. Japan won the first two editions of the World Baseball Classic. People in Japan think Japanese baseball and the major leagues are closer than ever.

A lot of Japanese players? I think the number is still far from many. The number of Japanese who have experienced major league baseball is so small, and only a short period of time has passed since we started playing baseball in the majors. I wonder if there is anyone who can evaluate the Japanese and major leagues fairly.

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This offseason, Ichiro has added some changes to his normal offseason routine.

What have you been doing this offseason?

I’ve been playing golf. I don’t get blisters from swinging the bat, but I get blisters all over my hands from golfing. Blisters are signs that you’re not a good baseball player or not a good golfer, I think.

You usually take batting practice and play catch even at this time of year.

I haven’t grabbed the bat or the ball. I hit my golf ball all over the course, so I have to go look for the ball. It might be harder than my usual training.

Do you feel uncomfortable not swinging the bat?

I hate it when I don’t hit my tee shot straight down the middle. It’s been 10 years since I came over here. I think it’s time for me to play some golf.

Does that mean you think you can finally relax after 10 major league seasons?

I don’t know if I’ve earned relaxing time or what, but I think my mind has been at ease after I completed 10 years of play in the majors.

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