Baseball / MLB

Baseball legend Sadaharu Oh praises Ichiro's contributions to the game

Kyodo

Hall of Famer Sadaharu Oh said Friday that, like the rest of Japan, he was riveted by Ichiro Suzuki’s last game and his retirement news conference that ran well past midnight.

The SoftBank Hawks chairman, who as manager of Japan at the first World Baseball Classic in 2006, lifted the first championship trophy with Ichiro on the team, saluted the impact the 45-year-old outfielder has made.

“I was watching his finale,” Oh said. “How did he inspire so many people with his career in baseball? Nobody can influence so many people like that.”

Oh traveled to Tokyo to see Ichiro and the Seattle Mariners open their season against the Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome on Wednesday, the 13th anniversary of Japan’s first WBC championship.

“The only thing I said to him was to give it 100 percent,” Oh said. “He didn’t say anything about retiring at the time.”

When Oh was named Japan manager in the summer of 2005 ahead of the first WBC, nobody told him about how and whom he could and couldn’t talk to in assembling a team. At that time it was widely believed two major league position players, Hideki Matsui and Tadhahito Iguchi, would lend a hand, while Ichiro was a question mark.

“I was incredibly reassured,” Oh said of his thoughts after Ichiro reached out to him by phone.

“No matter what it was, he didn’t do anything halfway.”

Oh took note of Ichiro’s assertion that he would not become manager of a pro baseball team.

“That’s something I would like to see,” Oh said. “But I don’t want to encourage him in a way that will introduce him to more headaches. I want to liberate him from those things a little.”