In addition to being a baseball god — perhaps because he’s a baseball god — Ichiro Suzuki is impossible to get off the diamond. When he first retired, back in 2018, he remained with the Mariners throughout the season, hanging out in the clubhouse in the role of “special assistant to the chairman.” He then un-retired in 2019 and appeared in the Mariners’ opening series in Japan. Did his subsequent retirement induce him to hang up the spikes for good?
No chance, although he’s almost certainly not going to play again. Instead, here he is throwing batting practice during spring training.
3,000-plus hits and now he’s throwing BP pic.twitter.com/Ue7WBujnD7— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) February 19, 2020
Obviously “coach throws BP” is hardly a new development, but in Ichiro’s case there’s something profound going on. His connection with baseball, and particularly the Mariners, is so deep that it’s practically impossible to envision him leaving the sport of his own free will.
His devotion to the craft was always extraordinary (if you’re not in the know, think hand-crafted bats kept in precisely climate-controlled conditions). Many stars before Ichiro have defined baseball — Ken Griffey Jr. comes to mind, if you’re looking for a Seattle option — but it’s hard to think of anyone who has let baseball define them to the same extent as the 46-year-old. While other legends can coach, Ichiro can’t not.
In 2017, Ichiro claimed that after he retired, he’d “just die,” which is both fairly morbid and indicative of just how central the game is to his life. One wonders if by staying with the team, walking on the hallowed grass and participating in baseball’s rituals, he’s maintaining the echoes of his career.
Not for us, of course. Ichiro’s legend is going to last for as long as baseball does. But, perhaps, for him.