The Seattle Mariners may have released outfielder Ichiro Suzuki on Thursday, but it does not mean the outfielder and one of the greatest hitters in Major League Baseball history is leaving the organization.
The team announced Suzuki will move into a front office position as a special assistant to the franchise, much like Alex Rodriguez did with the New York Yankees. Ichiro Suzuki told the media while he may not play again this season, he has not ruled out playing in 2019.
The ageless wonder once said he hoped he could play the game of baseball until he was 50 years old.
“The past two months have been the happiest I’ve been,” Suzuki, 44, said through an interpreter. “I knew one day that the day would come when I would have to walk away. But the Mariners have given me this opportunity to stay on. Obviously, with my teammates and how great they’ve been and how much they mean to me and how much I want to help is the reason I wanted to stay on and help in any way I can.”
According to Tim Booth of the Associated Press, “The Job isn’t sitting behind a desk but rather more of what Suzuki has done every day of his 18 seasons in the majors. He’ll still be in the clubhouse. He’ll still go through pregame workouts and preparations and take part in batting practice.”
When the game starts, however, Suzuki will be required to leave the bench and move to the clubhouse. He is a “player-coach” without the player part for the remainder of this season. The man who started his Major League career in a Seattle Mariners uniform ended it the same way he came to America.
Suzuki spent the bulk of his career with two teams: nine seasons with the Orix Blue Wave of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in Japan, where he began his career, and 12 with the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball (MLB) in the United States. After playing for the Mariners, he played two and a half seasons in MLB with the New York Yankees before signing with the Miami Marlins. Ichiro played three seasons with the Marlins before returning to the Mariners in 2018.
Ichiro Suzuki established a number of batting records, including MLB’s single-season record for hits with 262. He achieved 10 consecutive 200-hit seasons, the longest streak by any player in history. Between his major league career in both Japan and the United States, Ichiro has the most hits by any player in top-tier professional leagues. He also has recorded the most hits of any foreign-born player in MLB.
In his combined playing time in NPB and MLB, Ichiro received 17 consecutive selections both as an All-Star and Gold Glove winner, won nine league batting titles and was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) four times. While playing in NPB, he won seven consecutive batting titles and three consecutive Pacific League MVP Awards.
In 2001, Ichiro became the first Japanese-born position player to be posted and signed to an MLB club. He led the American League (AL) in batting average and stolen bases en route to being named AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP.
On August 7, 2016, Ichiro notched the 3000th hit of his MLB career, a triple, off Chris Rusin of the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, becoming only the 30th player ever to do so.
The idea is for Suzuki to help players with outfielder defense, hitting and base running.
“I just want it to be kind of organic, it grows, see where it fits in the best,” manager Scott Servais said. “I am looking forward to just kind of sitting down with him in a different type of relationship now that he’s not on an active roster and asking him questions and gaining some of his experiences and hopefully it helps me and helps the ball club out.”