Team mates weep as Ichiro, baseball's most prolific hitter, retires at 45
TOKYO (Reuters) - Ichiro Suzuki, the most prolific hitter in baseball history and an icon on both sides of the Pacific, retired on Thursday as his fellow Seattle Mariners wept, bowed and hugged him in a Tokyo stadium rocking with cheers.
Suzuki, 45, made the announcement after playing for the Mariners in the second game of their Major League Baseball opening series in Japan against the Oakland Athletics.
His final at bat could hardly have been more typical: a ground ball out that he very nearly legged into an infield single with a full-bore sprint to first. The Mariners won 5-4 after three extra innings.
Those two games this year mark his 28th season as a top tier professional baseball player in the United States and Japan.
"I have achieved so many of my dreams in baseball, both in my career in Japan and, since 2001, in Major League Baseball," he said. "I am honored to end my big league career where it started, with Seattle, and think it is fitting that my last games as a professional were played in my home country of Japan"
Suzuki, who started in right field in both games for the Mariners this week, has 3,089 hits in the U.S. major leagues and 1,278 in Nippon Professional Baseball. Those 4,367 hits are the most ever at the top professional level.
The 10-times All Star also set MLB's record for hits in a single season with 262 in 2004.
He took Japan by storm early in his career, winning seven consecutive batting titles during his time with the Orix BlueWave before moving to the United States in 2001.
Ichiro hit the ground running immediately in the MLB, winning the American League MVP in his first year. At a time of suspiciously beefy sluggers, he was their opposite - wiry, skinny and perpetually in motion, always seeming to be two steps toward first base at the moment the ball left his bat.
He played the majority of career for the Seattle Mariners, and also had late-career stints with the New York Yankees and Miami Marlins.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Peter Graff)
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