TOKYO -- Legendary Japanese baseball player Ichiro Suzuki picked up his bat for the last time Thursday, retiring at age 45 as one of the greatest to ever play the game with 4,367 combined hits in Japan and the U.S.
“I have achieved so many of my dreams in baseball both in my career in Japan and, since 2001, in Major League Baseball," Suzuki said Thursday. "I am honored to end my big-league career where it started, with Seattle, and think it is fitting that my last games as a professional were played in my home country of Japan."
The Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics were in Japan for a two-game season-opening series at the Tokyo Dome Wednesday and Thursday, with Suzuki batting ninth and playing right field. He went 0-for-4 Thursday and was taken out in the middle of the eighth inning.
"I wanted to get one hit for the fans," Suzuki said in a news conference after the game, drawing to a close a career that spanned nine seasons in Japan and 19 in the U.S.
Suzuki had already begun his transition from the field to the front office last May, when he took a position as special assistant adviser to the Mariners. Itching to return to the majors, however, he signed a minor-league deal with the Mariners and was invited to training camp. But the 45-year-old struggled in spring training, going hitless in 24 at-bats before entering Wednesday's game.
Suzuki was drafted fourth by the Orix Blue Wave in 1992 out of Aikodai Meiden High School in Nagoya. He became the first player in Japan's professional league to collect 200 hits in a season in 1994, starting a string of seven straight seasons of leading the league in hitting.
Upon moving to the Mariners in 2001, Suzuki led the MLB in hits with 242 and in stolen bases with 56 on his way to MVP and Rookie of the Year honors. He became the MLB's single-season record holder for hits with 262 in 2004 as part of a decadelong streak of more than 200 per season. Teammates and coaches often characterized Suzuki as "a magician with the bat."
Suzuki was traded to the New York Yankees in July 2012 and then moved on to the Miami Marlins in 2015 before returning to the Mariners last year.
"I am extremely happy I am able to wear this [Mariners] uniform on this day," Suzuki told reporters Thursday.
The Japanese legend made history again in June 2016 when he surpassed Pete Rose's record of 4,256 career hits. He ranks 22nd all-time in MLB history with 3,089 hits.
Suzuki also competed for Japan in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics. He was a major contributor to Japan's victories in those tournaments, producing the winning hit in the 10th inning of the 2009 championship game against South Korea.