The first Japanese player, Masanori Murakami, made his debut in 1964 with the San Francisco Giants. Year to date there has been 54 players from Japan in the league and 9 of them are currently active. There have been a number of amazing players have come from this esteemed list of talent, but one is the stand out. Ichiro Suzuki has been in the league for 15 seasons, is a career .314/.357/.405 hitter, and will easily be a first round induction into the baseball hall of fame. On August 7th Ichiro joined an elite club that only has 29 other members; the 3000th hit club.
Ichiro has had a storied career. He made his debut in Japan in 1992 when he was 18. Within his first 4 years Ichiro won 3 batting titles and in 1996 he got his first taste of major league baseball when he played in an exhibition game against MLB All-Stars. By the time free agency rolled around in 2000 Ichiro was ready to make the leap and was able to enter the posting system (a system that is in place to assist in the transfer of players from Nippon Professional Baseball to the MLB). The Seattle Mariners won the bid during the post and were able to negotiate a 3 year, $14 million dollar contract and that is where Ichiro would stay for 11.5 seasons.
In 2012 the Mariners were in a rebuilding phase and with the uncertainty surrounding a contract extension, Ichiro requested a trade. His first pick of teams was to New York Yankees and to the Yankees he went. Although his performance didn’t waver much, an aging Ichiro became a free agent at the end of the 2014 season. No matter his record, not to many teams were clamoring to sign a 41 year old outfielder, but with an injured Giancarlo Stanton he suited the Miami Marlins perfectly. The transition from AL to NL was a little rough on Ichiro and his batting average dropped to .229/.282/.279, but in 2016 he has bounced back to greatness and currently carries a .316/.388/.379 average.
Over his career Ichiro won Rookie of the Year in 2001 and well as appearing in 9 straight All-Star games from 2001 to 2010. Additionally he has achieved many hitting achievements over the years such as most consecutive season with 200 or more hits and most consecutive seasons leading the league in singles (both were from 2001-2010). The league may never see another player like Ichiro Suzuki. His speed, stamina, and durability are rare; never playing in fewer than 150 games each season in each of his 15 years in the game. He is a legend in baseball and no doubt will become a standard to which all players look to emulate.
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