Once the biggest star of Japan, Ichiro Suzuki now wears the pinstripes of the biggest sports team in America, the New York Yankees.
In a trade that stunned the baseball world, the Yankees acquired the 10-time all-star outfielder for two pitching prospects, moving him from the last-place Seattle Mariners to first place New York.
“I’m going from a team having the most losses to a team with the most wins, so it’s been hard to (contain) my excitement,” he said through a translator.
At the same time, it was an emotional time for Ichiro, 38. When he arrived in Seattle in 2001, he was an instant star on an international level. He was once considered the “Michael Jordan of Japan,” he was so popular in his home country. Hordes of media from Japan moved to Seattle to document his every move. And he gave them a lot to report. He was named the American League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, when he helped lead Seattle to the best regular season in history. Ichiro also won two AL batting titles and 10 Gold Glove awards in his 11-plus seasons with the Mariners.
That history made seeking a trade not-so-easy. “It is hard for me to concisely express my feelings,” Ichiro said. “When I imagined taking off the Mariner uniform, I was overcome with sadness. It has made this a very difficult decision to make.”
He made the decision, he said, because he did not see much hope in Seattle. “When I spent time during the All-Star break to think, I realized that this team has many players in their early 20s,” Ichiro said. “I began to think I should not be on this team next year. I also started to feel a desire to be in an atmosphere that I could have a different kind of stimulation than I have right now.”
Mission accomplished. He landed at the winningest franchise in American sports history.
The Yankees also received cash considerations from the Mariners, who acquired reliever D.J. Mitchell and minor league right-hander Danny Farquhar — future answers to the questions of how the Yankees acquired future hall of famer Ichiro.