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Seattle Mariners special assistant Ichiro Suzuki concluded his high school coaching debut on Friday after three days as a special instructor with schoolboy baseball powerhouse Chiben Wakayama in western Japan.

The 47-year-old Ichiro brought his playing career to an end in March 2019 after amassing a combined 4,367 hits from his time in Japan’s Pacific League and the majors.

He told the players, “I explained what I could, so I expect good things from you.”

Ichiro received permission to coach high school and college players in February after attending mandatory seminars and doing the necessary coursework that Japan’s student baseball federations require of former professional players.

On Wednesday, Ichiro observed practice and began instructing the players from Thursday. On Friday, he practiced alongside the students, while advising them on base stealing. During batting practice, he put on a clinic by hitting ball after ball over the fence.

“The time he spent with us was like a dream,” Chiben Wakayama manager Jin Nakatani, a former pro ballplayer, said. “It wasn’t just what he said. Seeing him run and play is something that resonates.”

Ichiro Suzuki instructs Chiben Wakayama players during a practice on Friday. | KYODO
Ichiro Suzuki instructs Chiben Wakayama players during a practice on Friday. | KYODO

Infielder Ryohei Hosokawa, who was selected by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the fourth round of this year’s draft, said, “It was such a happy time. Everything he said is engraved in my memory.”

Normally, no person still affiliated with a pro team is permitted to coach high school or college players, but Ichiro was given a special exemption out of respect for his achievements and because his position with the Mariners does not put him in position to recruit amateurs.

Ichiro was one of 94 former pros to receive their qualifications in February.

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