Ichiro Suzuki brought down the curtain on his 28-year playing career on March 21 in front of his fans.
“When I look back on my career, I will no doubt remember today as the most memorable day,” Ichiro told a news conference after receiving a rousing send-off from a sold-out Tokyo Dome that came to see him play one more time for the Seattle Mariners.
“If you think about it, I lost my job last year in May and couldn’t play. It would have been completely normal for me to give it up then. But I stayed with the team and did my best because I was told I’d have a chance to play this spring.”
The 45-year-old said he had decided the Mariners’ trip to Japan to play two games against the Oakland Athletics would be the end for him in baseball as spring training wound down.
“After the reception I got today, how could I possibly have any regrets?” he said. “I couldn’t play well enough in spring training to earn an extension.”
At Tokyo Dome, he was applauded by fans and both teams when he left the game in the eighth inning. He returned to the field with his teammates after the game, but the fans wouldn’t let him go, chanting his name until he came back onto the field to take a bow.
For years, Ichiro had said he wanted to play until 50.
“I really wanted to play until I was 50, but I couldn’t do it,” he said. “But if I’d never said it, I don’t think I would have come this far.” (Kyodo, AP)