Ichiro Suzuki Seattle MarinersBy Kazuki Tsuchihashi

He may be small, he may not hit 40 home runs, but Ichiro Suzuki is one of the best baseball players that have ever existed. How can I prove that? He has hit over .300 in every season he has played in the MLB. Ty Cobb, Tony Gwynn, Pete Rose, and Babe Ruth were all great hitters, but their average was below .300 at least once in their career.

On October 22, 1973, Ichiro Suzuki was born in Kasugai, Japan. The first time that he touched a baseball was at three years of age, when his father had gotten him a plastic bat and a glove to play with. His father, Nobuyuki Suzuki, himself played high school baseball. But his career ended in tragedy, when he got hit by a pitch in the head. So Nobuyuki wanted Ichiro to reach the level of baseball that he couldn’t get to; the pros.

Ichiro Suzuki Seattle MarinersAt age six, Ichiro made the decision to pursue the dream of becoming a baseball player. And in third grade, he joined a baseball team, with his father becoming the coach. Right there, Ichiro and Nobuyuki made a promise. They decided to train hard everyday. Ichiro’s father said this was a real promise, a man to man promise. Ichiro’s father never told Ichiro what to do except once; he made Ichiro become a left handed hitter, instead of a righty, his natural side. This, in my opinion, was the most significant moment in Ichiro’s baseball career. If he was still a righty, he wouldn’t get the infield hits that he gets today. On the left is the schedule that Ichiro was following everyday from third grade on.

Ichiro’s Typical Day

3:00 PM – Comes Home From School
3:30 PM – Warm-up (Throwing), Pitches (50 balls) and Toss Batting (210 balls)
5:00 PM – Infield Practice and Outfield Practice and Batting Practice (On Field)
6:15 PM – Private Upper Level Tutoring
7:30 PM – Dinner
8:00 PM – Batting Cages
10:15 PM – Homework
11:30 PM – Sleep

Ichiro got better and better as time went on. He was especially able to hit fastballs. He was already able to hit 60 mile balls as a third grader and when he got to middle school, 75 miles were to slow for him so his father asked the batting cages’ manager to speed the ball up. Since 75 miles was the maximum speed, every time the Suzukis showed up to the cages, they adjusted the machine to speed it up to 80 miles per hour. In eighth grade that got too slow for Ichiro, so he took two extra steps out of the batter’s box, so that means he was hitting around 85 mile balls in middle school.

Ichiro was also a great pitcher. He was the ace pitcher for his baseball team. In fact, he was planning to be a pro pitcher, until an accident happened. H got hit by a car when he was riding a bicycle to his high school. After that accident, his high school coach said, Ichiro never had the great pitching form that he used to have; it looked now like he was forcing the ball into the plate.

About Ichiro’s high school’s years, his high school, Aikoudaimeidenkou, had a rule that every single member of the baseball team must live in a dormitory. That meant every baseball team member in Ichiro’s graduating class would live with him for three years, since in Japan you go to high school for three years. He grew stronger there, because he had to eat whatever was served, and he couldn’t just eat his favorite foods. One of his teammates from high school saids, “Ichiro was a hard working guy. After we would eat dinner, everybody would be fooling around, but Ichiro would act like he is going to the bathroom, but instead go to the third floor and swing his bat hard for thirty minutes or so.”

His team also went to Koshien, which is a national high school tournament usually compared to March Madness, twice while Ichiro was on the team. Although they never went to the championship, Ichiro’s career high school batting average was a stupendous .505. He was rated the best baseball player in his state.

So there came the draft. He wasn’t really favored by many scouts, because they said, “Ichiro is too small and has no stamina.” But there was one scout that knew Ichiro was a great player. He was a scout for the Orix Bluewaves and asked the team to draft Ichiro. Ichiro was drafted in the forth round, which is the last round of the Japanese draft. After being drafted, Ichiro said, “I wanted to go to the Dragons, but I am happy to be able to play in the pros.”

His first two seasons, he went back in forth from the minors to the majors and to the majors to the minors. The primary reason was the manager for the major team, Doi, disagrred with Ichiro’s batting form. Ichiro had a batting form, where he is already running while he hits the ball. So since Doi made ichiro change his stance, he didn’t hit well. But then he would be sent down to the minors and produce results with his original hitting style and get called up again. But then there was Doi to fix his stance, whenever he got to the major. So Ichiro was never a full time major leaguer in his first two years after being drafted. But there came fortune. There was a new manager for the Bluewaves. His name was Oogi. He didn’t know about Ichiro, but the hitting coach for the minor league told him that there was a great hitter called Ichiro Suzuki in the minors. Oogi instantly used Ichiro in the starting lineup, plus changed his jersey name from Suzuki to Ichiro, since Suzuki is the second most popular last name in Japan.

There Ichiro was hitting in the lead of spot for a pro team. He was on fire from the first pitch of the season to the last pitch of the season. He hit 210 hits, which is still a record for the Japanese Baseball League. Everybody was cheering for Ichiro; it was called Ichirofever. In that miraculous year, he was the batting champ, the stolen base king, and of course the MVP. I forgot to mention, but I think you already know it but Ichiro has one of the fastest legs that any baseball player has ever had.

In the next six years, until he got to the Major Leagues, he won the batting crown in each of the six years. He also won the RBI crown in 1995, MVP in 95 and 96. After the end of the 2000 season, Ichiro said he wanted to play in America. Since he wasn’t a free agent, he had to go through the posting system, where the American team pays the Japanese team to be able to negotiate a contract with their non-free agent player.

The team that was interested in Ichiro the most was the Seattle Mariners. They signed Ichiro, and he was all set to go in the Major Leagues. Of course, you know the story. He won the batting crown, Gold Glove, most hits, Rookie of the Year, and the MVP award in his rookie year. In the 2004 season, he broke George Sisler’s record for the most hits in a season. Today, Ichiro is still playing great for the Mariners, and this year reached career hit 3000 if you combine both his Japanese record and his Major League record. I was very fortunate to be in the stands in the game as he hit the first pitch of the game to left center field. So I hope I have influenced you that Ichiro is one of the best players ever to play baseball.

So you would think that this future Hall of Famer has many expensive cards. That is exactly right. Here is the list of Ichiro’s 5 most expensive cards as priced by the Beckett Baseball Card Price Guide 2008 Edition:

1. 2001 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ichiro Suzuki Rookie Autograph Card /250-$1800 (Search Ebay) – Here is an autographed card numbered to 250 of Ichiro. It is an on card autograph, with the picture of Ichiro’s All-Star game appearance on the card.

2. 2001 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ichiro Suzuki Bat Autograph /50-$800 (Search Ebay) – This card had a bat and an autograph on it. Actually, it wasn’t inserted into packs; it came in a form of a redemption card.

3. 2001 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ichiro Suzuki Jersey Autograph /50-$800 (Search Ebay) – This card is similar to the second card except for it has a jersey, instead of a bat.

4. 2001 SPx Ichiro Suzuki Jersey Autograph-$800 (Search Ebay) – This card is priced at $800 on the Beckett Price Guide, but it is currently being sold on Ebay for $2000.

2001 Spx Ichiro Suzuki Auto Jersey

5. 2001 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ichiro Batting Glove /75-$300 (Search Ebay) – This is one of the Ichiro series that Ultimate Collection had. I think this is unique, since it is Ichiro’s actual batting gloves. The series included the following: ball series, base series, bat series, batting gloves series, fielder’s glove series and the jersey series.