If you can read this, you might be up at 5:30am, fumbling for the remote in the pre-dawn light so as to tune bleary eyes to ESPN for the first game of the 2019 season. The excitement of the big opener is upon us, and already you might be wired from coffee and anticipation.
Steady your cup — this morning Mike Fiers is making his first First Start. What with that 3.56 ERA from last season, Japanese fans are sure to be impressed. At the least, for baseball lovers, this happy “beginning” may ease the sad sunset on King Felix’s Opening Day reign. His crown has passed to Marco Gonzales, an uninspiring lefty with a baby face. Sr. Gonzales, the Mariners turn their lonely eyes to you.
But, no one looks for this match up to be a pitchers’ duel — or even fireworks to kick off a sure-to-be dull season born of a disappointing off-season and underperforming as business strategy. No, really this game is about two things.
The Mormons have looked to Africa to find new converts, but MLB has set its sights on Asia. What better way to highlight the MLB product than a showy opener most Staters won’t be awake to see? But, it’ll be prime time in Japan and that’s the target audience. The internet makes universal viewership possible and all markets are now potential MLB markets.
For the less cynical, here is our chance to celebrate our shared national pastimes and mutual passion for baseball. Our common affinities bring us together, though the ocean separates us. This brings us to the second purpose of the game.
Ichiro makes his final MLB appearance in right field for the Mariners in this short series, and fans in both hemispheres will rise to salute our shared hero. After making his mark in Japanese baseball, Suzuki crossed over to became a bona fide star in MLB. He appeared in ten All-Star games and received ten Golden Gloves to match. Add to that three Silver Sluggers and seven seasons as the league leader in hits. This Hit King (which translates to “Hit Manufacturing Machine” in the Japanese press) ranks first among active players and twenty-third overall with 3,089. He was the first MLB player inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, and he may be the first Japanese HoF’er to join the HoF for MLB. Today, we will watch his playing career end in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Thank you for all the years, Suzuki-san. We are most grateful.
Raise your mugs of java or tea to the great Ichiro, and mix it up over game details in the comments. You’ve awakened to the season’s start, baseball fans.
6 thoughts on “Plaaaayyyyyyy baaaaaallll!!!!”
Sorry, I’m not awake yet.
You missed the fans chanting, “Ich-i-ro! Ich-i-ro!”
BTW, they sent Suzuki out in the bottom of the 4th and then immediately called him back in from right field. American fans recognize this as the opportunity to salute the player as he leaves the game, but the Japanese fans were apparently unfamiliar with the custom. They did not cheer until Ichiro’s teammates gathered around him to give hugs and congratulations. Then, the fans broke into cheers and an ovation. It was a sweet moment.
Great work as usual. While reading, I suddenly wondered if Ichiro was ever hit by a pitch in (shit I can’t say it)?
If you had the game on this morning (We have been watching while getting ready for work), you got to see Junior (Griffey variety) in the booth. He sat in for a couple innings to visit with the announcers and talk about the Mariners.
Baseball is BACK!
Classy move by the Mariners to sign Ichiro to a minor league deal, put him in the lineup for these games, and then let him retire on his own terms. It is a great tribute to Ichiro, in his home country, in front of his original fan base, playing for the team that originally signed him.
Here’s a nifty little stat that bookends his incredible career:
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