#1: Debut at Safeco
April 2, 2001
In what was one of the most anticipated arrivals in Seattle sports history, Ichiro burst onto the MLB stage with a two-hit debut. In typical Ichiro fashion, the hits were both singles that squeaked through the infield. Safeco Field erupted when Ichiro slapped his first hit up the middle – a hit that provided the opening salvo to a 242-hit MVP and Rookie of the Year season, and a legendary MLB career.
“He is bigger than Michael Jordan because everybody knows Ichiro,” a college student from Japan told The Seattle Times before his debut. “Nobody knows who is the prime minister of Japan or who is the president in the United States, but everyone knows Ichiro."
#2: Star Wars throw
April 11, 2001
Oakland’s Terrance Long probably expected to coast into third base after Ramon Hernandez’s routine single to right field. But Long clearly underestimated the Jedi arm of Ichiro lurking in right field.
With Long halfway to third base, Ichiro reared back and delivered a laser strike to third baseman David Bell’s glove, which met Long’s foot just after finding the back of the leather. “I’m here to tell you that Ichiro threw something out of Star Wars down there at third base,” legendary broadcaster Dave Niehaus bellowed.
#3: Season hits record
October 1, 2004
Almost certainly the most memorable play of Ichiro's career was the base hit that he himself called “the greatest moment of my baseball career.” Batting in the third inning against Rangers right-hander Ryan Drese, Ichiro had a chance to set the single-season MLB hits record, a mark he had tied in the first inning with a single to left. He worked the count full and bounced the ball up the middle, past the outstretched arms of shortstop Michael Young and into the record books.
It was his 258th hit of the year, breaking George Sisler’s record that had stood for 84 years. Ichiro would add another hit in the sixth, and three more over the final two games to finish the season with 262 hits — a mark no one else has come close to approaching since.
#4: Home run robbery
May 5, 2005
Sticking with our movie theme, Ichiro showed off his Spider-Man abilities with this home-run robbery in 2005. Ichiro scaled the right field wall, planted his left foot on top of the padding and contorted his body high above the yellow line to snatch what would have been a home run off the bat of the Angels’ Garret Anderson. If there’s anyone who can make climbing a wall and spinning around for a catch look easy, it’s Ichiro.
#5: 1,000 MLB hits
June 14, 2005
Ichiro wasted no time in notching his 1,000th career MLB hit when the Mariners hosted the Phillies in the middle of June 2005. Leading off the bottom of the first, he lined the second pitch he saw off the base of the right-field wall for a single, becoming the third-fastest player in major league history to the 1,000 hit milestone.
Leading into the game, Ichiro had been in a month-long slump that had seen his average plummet below .300, so the wait for 1,000 had stretched on longer than many thought it would. But Ichiro made them wait no longer.
#6: All-Star speed
July 7, 2007
This may be one of the moments that best showcases the legend of Ichiro, combining his well-known foot speed with whispers of the prodigious power he routinely showed off in batting practice. In the fifth inning of the 2007 All-Star Game, already with two singles to his name, Ichiro stepped in and launched a hit over 400 feet to right-center. Aided by a strange bounce, Ichiro sped around the bases and didn’t even need to slide to complete the first, and only, inside-the-park home run in All-Star Game history.
The impressiveness of the moment was not lost on Manny Ramirez, who fanned Ichiro with his towel in joking reverence when Ichiro returned to the dugout. The performance was more than enough to award Ichiro with All-Star MVP honors.
#7: Hall of Fame walkoff
Sept. 9, 2009
With the Mariners trailing the Yankees 2-1 and Mariano Rivera toeing the rubber in the ninth, all hope appeared to be lost on this September evening in Seattle. Felix Hernandez, who had pitched a complete-game gem, was in line for a loss, and the Mariners were in line for yet another disappointing night.
But, after a two-out double by Mike Sweeney, Ichiro tattooed the first pitch he saw to give the Mariners a dramatic walkoff win. The homer also snapped a spell of 27 consecutive saves by Rivera against Seattle.
#8: All smiles
Oct. 4, 2009
While the Mariners didn’t make the playoffs in 2009, they did put together a pleasantly surprising 85-77 record after being pegged to finish well below .500. It was the first time since 2003 the M’s had posted a winning record. A key contributor to that record? Ichiro Suzuki, who continued to dominate major league pitching with 229 hits and a .352 average.
With little else to celebrate, fans at Safeco Field were treated to the spectacle of Ken Griffey Jr. and Ichiro being paraded around the infield atop the shoulders of their teammates.
#9: Moving on
July 23, 2012
Just over a week before the 2012 trade deadline, with the Mariners out of contention, Ichiro’s Mariners career came to an end when he was traded to the Yankees. As it turned out, the Yankees had just arrived in Seattle, so a day later Ichiro came out of the Yankees' third-base dugout and strode to the plate wearing a New York uniform.
He got a standing ovation from the Mariners’ faithful and took the time to bow twice before stepping into the box for his first major league at-bat not wearing a Mariners uniform. Fittingly, on the second pitch he saw he lined a single to center field, continuing to do what he did best as a Mariner: get hits.