Out of all the sports, baseball is without a doubt one of the most international. What I mean is that there are a ton of extremely talented players from all across the globe represented in the league, while most other leagues have players from only a few countries. But of all the international players in the MLB, one sticks out as perhaps being one of the most popular and influential, and that is Ichiro Suzuki. Here I will take a look at his career in baseball (both in Japan and the MLB) and the mark that he has left on the sport forever.
From a young age growing up in Japan, Ichiro had a love of baseball and his father vouched to make him a better player and the two would practice every day together. The practice paid off and Ichiro found himself in the Pacific League of the NPB, the biggest baseball league in Japana. Ichiro spent 8 years in the league, winning three MVP awards, being named to seven all-star teams and won a championship. However, in 2001, Ichiro would finally come to the big leagues.
His move to the USA garnered a ton of interest as he was one of the first Japanese players to play for an MLB team, and he instantly made a name for himself. In his rookie year, he had 242 hits, which was the most by any player in nearly a century. In addition to his hitting prowess, he showed outstanding hitting, base running and a cannon for an arm. He led the league in batting avg and stolen bases in that rookie year, making him the second player ever to win the rookie of the year and MVP in the same year.
His immediate and stunning success led to pandemonium amongst Japanese fans and he almost single handedly increased the countries interest in baseball. People would travel all the way from Japan, only to watch a single game featuring Ichiro. There were also well over 100 Japanese media members given credentials, when there were very few of them prior to Ichiro.
While he never was able to win the MVP again, his career was (and still is) an amazing one. He continued to hit at an amazing clip (with a great average to boot) and his popularity in the mid 2000s was probably higher than any other MLB player. While he is not even retired yet, Ichiro is a shoe in for a spot in the Hall of Fame, even if he stopped playing now.
If not only for his play on the field, but also for his influence on the game and bringing a whole country to come to love a sport (kind of like Yao Ming did for the NBA in the Chinese market). His career is followed insanely close in Japan and his success has opened the doors for a number of other Japanese MLB players to find success as well. While he is popular here in the West, it is nothing like it is in Japan. When he retires, we will truly be losing one of the greatest players in history.