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Before Ichiro takes a swing, before he rabbits out of the box toward first, he's already the most entertaining hitter in baseball. The way he holds the bat up, like it's a divining rod and he's thirsty for water, the way he picks at his sleeves like a tailor and eyes the horizon like a Bedouin spying a path across the desert -- the guy is mesmerizing. He slows the game down, makes each pitch linger, all full of possibility and peril.

- Sportswriter Eric Neel


Ichiro Suzuki (1973- ), the right fielder for the Seattle Mariners, was the first Japanese position player to play in the Major Leagues and is one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball. The best slap hitter in the game, Ichiro has uncanny bat control such that he can punch almost any pitch through a hole in the infield for a base hit, and has enough power to yank an occasional homer to right. Ichiro is also one of the fastest runners in baseball and is a dazzling defensive outfielder with one of the strongest, most accurate arms around. In his first season in America, Ichiro led the American League in batting average (.350) and stolen bases (56) and helped the M's tie the 1906 Chicago Cubs for major league record for wins in a season (116), becoming only the second player since Boston's Fred Lynn to win both the league MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in the same year. Ichiro's one glaring weakness as a hitter is his near total unwillingness to draw a walk, which as long as he maintains it, will always keep him from true elite status as a hitter.

Perhaps the most famous Japanese person in the world, Ichiro's fame and lack of privacy immediately extended to America where he has become the darling of the American baseball media and continues to be relentlessly hounded by Japanese reporters. He has already joined the pantheon of people who are so famous that the are known only by their first name - up there with Elvis, Madonna, and Cher.

In 2001 the baseball community was introduced to Ichiro Suzuki, or just Ichiro for short. While his `rookie' year performance was filled with spectacular feats, there was also some controversy too. Is he really a rookie? Did he deserve the MVP award instead of Alex Rodriguez? Why the hell does he have his first name on the back of his uniform?

Instead of the traditional last name being on the back of his uniform, Ichiro, his first name, was printed there. The story behind this begins 4 years earlier when Ichiro was playing for the Orix Blue Wave. In 1997 Ichiro was a modern day Japanese Babe Ruth. The game had never seen anyone like him, he had already won 3 batting titles (and would go on to win 4 more) and lead his team to a number of Championships. Ichiro was a superstar, but printed on the back of his jersey was Suzuki, a common last name in Japan, much like the American equivalent of Smith.

Ichiro's new manager, Ogi Akira, decided Ichiro was such a unique player that he deserved to be more then to be just another Suzuki running around of the field. So that year he had Ichiro printed on the back of his jersey. Ichiro was a little embarrassed to be singled out like this, but it seemed like a fitting tribute to him.

When Ichiro was signed by the Seattle Mariners in 2000. They brought him, along with his name (and japanese tourist dollars) to the US. This was not the first time a player had had thier first name printed on his jersey, Vida Blue and Chili Davis are just a few examples. But then again the individualizing of every player takes some of the fun out of Baseball. After all there is A-Rod, I-Rod, K-Rod; with the new influx of Japanese players into the league wouldn't it be great to have I-Suz, K-Suz, ect.

一郎

Ichirô is actually Japanese for "first son" ("ichi" is Japanese for one).

In the olden days, before Japanese commoners had two names of their own, they would name their first sons Ichiro. Their next male children would be named 次郎 Jiro ("next son"), 三郎 Saburo ("third son"), 四郎 Shiro ("fourth son"), and 五郎 Goro ("fifth son").

While the kanji at the top of this writeup are, by far, the most common way to write the name, there are actually 28 different ways to write "Ichiro," each with a slightly different meaning.

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