Thursday, August 22, 2013

Congratulations, Ichiro!

Yanks' Ichiro gets 4,000th career hit | The Japan Times

As an American baseball fan-- although not of the Yankees-- living in Japan I tend to follow the fortunes not only of my favorite team back home (the Atlanta Braves), but also of Japanese nationals playing in the bigs.  Who among them has had a greater impact than Ichiro Suzuki, who just garnered his 4,000th career hit as a pro, split between Japan and the United States?

We were watching the news this morning and when the story on Ichiro came on, my first reaction was, "Wow, he's going gray."  At 39, Ichiro's best years are more than likely behind him, but I think he still has a realistic chance of getting to 3,000 MLB hits.  I'd love for him to make it.  After watching the precipitous fall from grace of Alex Rodriguez-- who once had a realistic chance of breaking Barry Bonds' home run record-- and with Derek Jeter also closer to the end of his career than the beginning (now there's a guy who played ball the way it's supposed to be played), Ichiro's hit total is one of the few remaining non-Braves highlights of pro baseball for me.

It's been a thrill watching Ichiro's career from both sides of the Pacific.  He's been the main topic of pre-class warm-up discussions hundreds of times in my English-teaching career and generally not because I brought him up.  I've always tried to keep my personal interests out of the classroom in favor of those of my students, but someone inevitably asks me my opinion of Ichiro and I honestly tell them I'm a fan.  He's a heart-warming source of national pride for a lot of baseball fans I've met here, plus he's practically a local boy since he was born and grew up in Toyoyama, a town in neighboring Aichi prefecture, not far from Nagoya. 

When I came to work this morning a group of students were standing around outside the building's main entrance.  One of them did a near-perfect impression of Ichiro's swing.

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