The Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners played a real, regular-season baseball game in Tokyo this morning, but it still had the whiff of an exhibition game. That’s probably due to the fact that it took place so far away and so long before MLB’s actual opening day, but it was also due to Ichiro Suzuki’s involvement.
Ichiro went through something of a soft retirement last May, when after making the Mariners’ opening day roster as a 44-year-old, he announced that he would no longer be in playing in any games, but would remain on the team as a special assistant. He’s been back with the team during spring training this year, though, and this morning he started in right field and batted ninth against the A’s. He went 0-for-1 with a walk in his two plate appearances, and then was removed from the outfield by manager Scott Servais in the bottom of the fourth. The idea was to have Ichiro exit the field to a standing ovation from Japanese fans, but it took a few awkward beats for the crowd to realize what was going on:
The moment was more stiff and muted than a player of Ichiro’s legendary status deserves, but Servais has promised that it won’t be Ichiro’s last appearance on the field. He will play in the second game of the series tomorrow, though it likely won’t be as a starter:
Ichrio will probably come in as a pinch-hitter and get an ovation, and that may be the last we’ll ever see of him as a player. The Mariners were allowed to take three extra players to the series in Tokyo, but when they return to Seattle for their home opener they will have to trim the roster back down to 25 men, and it’s unlikely that there will be any room on the roster for Ichiro. It would be nice to see him take the field one more time and get a proper send-off in front of the Seattle fans who spent so many years cheering for him, but there’s no indication that will happen. Hell, they should give him a season-long retirement tour. He certainly deserves one just as much as Derek Jeter did.