The Education of Ichiro - Part 1
(Author’s note: Ichiro Suzuki will be inducted into the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame August 27, 2022. This series describes his upbringing in Japan and how it led to the MLB.)
First in a four-part series
The father and the son
TOKYO — Throughout his long career, Ichiro Suzuki approached the sport of baseball with a passion and conviction that few of his contemporaries could match. His pre-game workouts were legendary, as was the loving care with which he treated his equipment. Even in retirement, at age 48 as a Seattle Mariners coach, he continues the daily practice regimen he had followed during his long career in Japan (nine years in the NPB) and the United States (14 years in MLB) where he amassed over 4,000 hits and secured a spot in the Hall of Fame. For that, he could thank his father, a former high school pitcher.
When he was three years old, his father had given him his first baseball glove and initiated daily games of catch. Made of shiny red leather, it was the most expensive type available at sporting good counters in and around Toyoyama, a sparsely populated suburb of industrial, smog-bound Nagoya, where the Suzuki family lived. The boy’s mother had strenuously objected that at half a month’s wages, it was far too costly a toy for a small child, but the father had been resolute.
“It’s not a toy,” he had said, “It’s a tool that will teach him the value of things.”