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The End Of An Era

March 21, 2019

Geek Warning: This post talks about baseball. A lot. In fact, that’s about all it talks about

Something exciting happened this morning. The Seattle Mariners defeated the Oakland A’s in the Tokyo Dome to complete a sweep of their two game series. These games, unlike the ones played last week and this week in Arizona count toward the 162 regular season.

Mariners fans don’t have much to hope for this season. The team traded their stars, players like Edwin Diaz, last year’s save leader. And Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano, men able to change the course of a game with one swing of the bat.

The team has instead loaded up on young talent. Prospects and minor leaguers fill the roster. Seattle, 18 years out of the playoffs will be on the outside looking in at the end of the 2019 season.

With so much young talent, it’s strange to see a man take right field the last two games who has been playing longer than some of his teammates have been alive. At 45 years old, he’s one of the oldest men to ever start a MLB game.

And it’s not like his stats have lit up the spring. He batted just .080.

But, Ichiro wasn’t in right field because of the Spring he had. He wasn’t there because of the 2018 season he had where he batted only .205 in 15 games before becoming a special assistant to the chairman. He also wasn’t there for his work the he put in the last three years in Miami or the three before that for the New York Yankees.

Ichiro was there for the work he did from 2001-2012 in Seattle, and even more for the work he did the nine years before that for the Orix Blue Wave.

Ichiro has simply done things that have never been done on a baseball field before.

– He was the first Japanese position player to successfully transition to MLB
– He got more 200 hits in a season for ten straight years
– He got 262 hits in 2004. Most in the history of baseball, breaking a decades old record
– In 2001 he was both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player
– In 2007 he scored the only inside the park home run in All Star game history
– He had 3089 hits in his 18 years MLB career and 1278 hits in his 9 year in Japan, totaling 4367, the most in professional baseball history
– In 2001 he was part of the team that set the American League record and tied the MLB record 116 wins

And he was amazing to watch. Best described as a slight man, he was 5’11” and 175 lbs. But, he could fly, both on the basepaths and in the outfield.

Had he come up through the MLB minor league system and entered MLB in his early 20s instead of becoming a rookie at the ripe old age of 27, who can say what records he might have set.

After today’s game in Tokyo, he announced that he was retiring from professional baseball. Five years from now, he will join Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez and announcer Dave Niehaus, in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It’s fitting that Ichiro will be 50 when that Hall of Fame vote happens five years down the line. He always said he wanted to play until he was that age.

Thanks for the beautiful Wednesday afternoons. Thanks for the times of beating out an infield single. Thanks for the thrilling leaps at the wall. And mostly thanks for playing the game we love at such a high level for so many years.

May retirement be even slightly as fulfilling as your days as a player.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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