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Ichiro Suzuki announces retirement following Mariners' opening series in Japan

Ichiro Suzuki announces retirement following Mariners' opening series in Japan”

Laughing and joking as Ichiro was playing a game with coaches about where he could hit the ball. The Mariners announced Ichiro's intentions during the game.

And one sign had the clearest message of all: "We Love You Ichiro".

When Ichiro Suzuki signed with the Mariners in November 2000, there was plenty of public skepticism how his skills would translate to Major League Baseball.

Ichiro walks off into history before packed Tokyo Dome crowd

"For me it doesn't get better than tonight", Ichiro said through a translator.

Though rumors about Suzuki's retirement swirled past year, the outfielder finished the 2018 season at the Mariners' front office as special assistant to the chairman and didn't rule out a return.

Suzuki, who started in right field in both games for the Mariners this week, has 3,089 hits in the US major leagues and 1,278 in Nippon Professional Baseball. "It was a way of motivating myself and, if I'd never said it, I don't think I would have come this far".

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Ichiro was showered with cheers and chants while taking his final bow, and the Mariners sent him out with a win by beating the Oakland Athletics 5-4 in 12 innings.

He's had only 2 hits in 31 at-bats in spring training, including two exhibition games in Japan - perhaps the worst hitter anywhere this spring. The Mariners' players lined up to greet him as he trotted off the field, while the A's applauded from their dugout.

"After the reception I got today, how could I possibly have any regrets?" he said. Butterflies in my heart in my chest and I spoken with him with excitement. It prompted a memorable call by Mariners Hall of Fame announcer Dave Niehaus and was just one of several great moments in a season in which Ichiro was an All-Star and took home both the American League Rookie of the Year and MVP awards. Davis led the majors with 48 home runs a year ago and homered Wednesday.

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But, of course, if Ichiro could still do that, could still place the ball at his discretion, as his former batting coach, Paul Molitor, was convinced he would do, he wouldn't have been trotting off the emptied field in Tokyo for the final time moments later.

He would go 0-for-4 from the plate, but the bigger story was that he was about to retire in front of his home country.

Ichiro is retiring. That might not be much of a surprise for your typical 37-year-old player or 40-year-old player or 43-year-old player, much less the 45-year-old player he is now. His last start here was in June, when he beat the Yomiuri Giants, allowing two hits and striking out three in seven scoreless innings for the Lions.

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Mariners: Back to spring training for the M's. Seattle opens the regular season at home March 28 against the World Series champion Boston Red Sox.



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