5. Mariners Rookie Ichiro Suzuki Steps up to the Plate…
By the time Opening Day 2001 rolled around, Mariners fans had already heard of the great Ichiro signing a contract to leave his native Japan to play for Seattle, a popular place among Japanese immigrants and tourists. But we really didn’t know what to expect.
We heard tales of an incredibly fast bat wizard with a cannon for an arm, but it wasn’t until the season started on April second that most of us had seen him play. Surprisingly for a guy who would go on to record 3,000 hits in his MLB career, Ichiro actually went 0-3 in his first three Mariners at-bats. In the seventh inning, however, he did what we would eventually enjoy seeing him do for over a decade–slap the ball back up the middle and through the infield.
Ichiro was actually the first Japanese position player to play in the Major Leagues. His debut was one day before outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo, who played for the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants for two and a half seasons.
Ichiro ended up with two hits in the game, the first multi-hit of many, many more in his career. It was the start of a revolution in baseball that opened the door even wider for Japanese players to cross the ocean and try their skills in the Major Leagues. And of course, this hit was the first of the 242 he’d record that season en route to the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards.