Miami Marlins

Ichiro can’t fathom retirement: ‘I think I’ll just die’

Ichiro Suzuki talks about his 3,000th MLB hit (First of two parts)

Ichiro Suzuki became the 30th player in MLB history to record 3,000 career hits with a triple during the seventh inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies on Sun., Aug. 7, 2016.
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Ichiro Suzuki became the 30th player in MLB history to record 3,000 career hits with a triple during the seventh inning of a game against the Colorado Rockies on Sun., Aug. 7, 2016.

Ichiro Suzuki doesn’t believe in vacations.

The last time he took one — 2004 or ’05, he doesn’t recall which — was a week-long trip to Milan, Italy. He worked out pretty much the entire time and said the excursion threw him out of sync for two or three weeks.

Never again, he vowed.

“That’s the last time I took a vacation,” he said.

Ichiro doesn’t much care for down time, either. Every now and then, he’ll take a day trip to Cooperstown, New York, to check out the Hall of Fame. A frequent visitor, he wallows in the history of the sport, knows it inside and out.

But that’s about it.

His typical offseason — if it can be called that — hardly exists.

“Three or four days, tops,” said his translator, Allen Turner.

Most players head home or travel the world to unwind the moment the season ends. But Ichiro is back in the cages, practicing his swing, within days after the last game has been played.

“I’m telling you,” Turner said, “there’s nobody in the world that takes more swings over the course of a year than this guy. Guaranteed.”

As the iconic outfielder for the Marlins prepares to embark on his 25th season in professional baseball — the past 16 of them in the U.S. majors — Ichiro is an enigma.

At 43, he is the oldest position player in the majors. Only Braves pitcher Bartolo Colon — 51 days his senior — is older among active players. And yet there is no sign of quit in him.

He said he wants to continue playing until he’s 50.

“I’m not joking when I say it,” Ichiro said.

Few would second-guess his intentions.

Despite his age, Ichiro is in supreme physical condition. His workout regimen is legend. Like all teams, the Marlins have a weight room that players use to stay in shape.

Ichiro has his own, a metal cargo container set up behind the clubhouse at the team’s spring training facility in Jupiter. It contains an assortment of machines he uses to keep fit.

It’s its own tourist attraction. St. Louis Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter wandered over a few days ago just so he could take a gander at it.

“Physically, unless you have some kind of injury, you don’t really need a break,” Ichiro said of his relentless work ethic. “I think mentally you sometimes need a break. But for me, my body is built so that if I don’t work out, that’s when I put more stress on my body and get more tired.

“For me, if I stay on the couch all day — or even one day — I’ll be more tired doing that than going out and giving my body a workout.”

While the Marlins have an off day scheduled Thursday, one last respite before the start of the 162-game regular season grind on Monday, Ichiro has no intention of using it to rest.

“[Thursday] we have a day off,” Ichiro said.

“I’ll be here working out and doing what I usually do, working on the machines. I just love doing that.”

Said Keizo Konishi, a veteran sportswriter who has steadfastly chronicled Ichiro’s entire big-league career for Kyodo News, a Japanese wire agency: “He’s from a different planet.”

Ichiro has accomplished about all there is to accomplish in baseball. He recorded his 3,000th hit last season and is a virtual lock for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame once his playing days are over.

He ranks 25th all-time in hits and should climb a few rungs this season, passing Rod Carew, Rickey Henderson, Craig Biggio and Dave Winfield — Hall of Famers all — on his march up the ladder.

Ichiro has no intention of stopping anytime soon, anytime before he turns 50.

“Nobody knows what the future holds,” he said. “But the way I feel, how I’m thinking, I feel like nothing can stop me from doing it.”

Why rest now?

“When you retire from baseball, you have until the day you die to rest,” he said.

And when the day finally comes to retire?

“I think I’ll just die,” he said.


▪ Thursday: Off day.

▪ Friday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley vs. Detroit Tigers RHP Jordan Zimmermann, 7:05 p.m., Jupiter.

▪ Saturday: Marlins (TBA) vs. Tigers LHP Daniel Norris, 12:05 p.m., Jupiter.