Ichiro Suzuki was showered with cheers and chants Thursday night while taking his final bow in a magnificent career that lasted nearly three decades when the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 5-4 in 12 innings.
The 45-year-old Ichiro announced his retirement from Major League baseball after going 0 for 4 in the second game of the season. He got a chance at a storybook ending at the jammed Tokyo Dome when he came up with two outs, a runner on second base and a tie score in the eighth inning, but grounded out.
Ichiro drew a huge ovation from fans and teammates when he was pulled from right field in the bottom of the eighth. The buzz from the sellout crowd of 45,000 diminished after his exit.
“I have achieved so many of my dreams in baseball, both in my career in Japan and, since 2001, in Major League Baseball,” Ichiro said in a statement after the game. “I am honored to end my big league career where it started, with Seattle, and think it is fitting that my last games as a professional were played in my home country of Japan.”
Ichiro was all smiles as he greeted his teammates after the final out.
The 10-time All-Star, whose pro career began in his homeland in 1992 when he was 18, took his spot in right field to begin the bottom of the eighth. He was then pulled to one more ovation, punctuating his walk with waves, tips of his hat and hugs as cameras flashed all around the park.
Ichiro’s teammates met him outside the dugout for a proper sendoff in a three-minute tribute. Yusei Kikuchi, who pitched into the fifth inning of his major-league debut, bowed to Ichiro — the Mariners rookie was tearing up as he buried his head into Ichiro’s shoulder.
Ichiro got 3,089 hits over a 19-year career in the big leagues after getting 1,278 while starring for nine seasons in Japan. His combined total of 4,367 is a professional record. He went 0 for 1 with a walk in Wednesday’s opener.