None of his Marlins’ teammates were surprised when he did it.
And probably none of the Mariners’ fans or any baseball fans anywhere watching Wednesday’s game should have been either when it came to Ichiro Suzuki.
“Of course he did that,” teammate Christian Yelich said. “What else would he do in a moment like that?”
In what many believe could be his final at-bat at Safeco Field, the place he became a Major League Baseball icon, Ichiro Suzuki did, as Yelich remarked, what special players do.
He made a magical moment happen.
In the ninth inning of a 10-5 loss otherwise forgettable for the Marlins, Ichiro came up one final time and hit the first pitch he saw from Mariners reliever Evan Marshall over the wall in right center field for a solo home run.
“This is my last at-bat obviously and the last chance, and with the game the way it was going, I desperately wanted a hit right there,” Ichiro said. “I saw the ball go over the fence. I got to pinch myself to make sure that really happened. I feel grateful that happened.”
Ichiro rounded the bases as assuredly memories of his nearly 12 seasons as a Seattle Mariner came flooding into his mind.
It was Ichiro’s 115th major league home run, his 54th at Safeco Field and his first ever against the first team he played for in the majors.
This is my last at-bat obviously and the last chance, and with the game the way it was going, I desperately wanted a hit right there. I saw the ball go over the fence. I got to pinch myself to make sure that really happened. I feel grateful that happened.
Ichiro, on his last at-bat home run
It was his 3,033th career hit and 4,311th if you count the hits he totaled during his career playing in Japan prior to MLB.
And it came in the place where he was a 10-time All-Star, a league MVP and once recorded a major-league record 262 hits in a single season.
Ichiro was honored pregame on Monday before the opening game of the series for his 3,000-hit milestone.
Two days later, many of the 27,147 in attendance lined up hours before the game to collect the commemorative bobblehead the Mariners were giving out with two figurines of him - one in a Mariners uniform and one in Marlins gear.
As they did most of the series, the fans gave Ichiro ovations before and after at-bats.
But none were as loud as when he hit his home run.
“He’s the king, man,” said Edinson Volquez, the Marlins’ starting pitcher on Wednesday. “He got so much love in this ballpark. I think the whole entire series, they loved him. It was great to see him hit a homer today for his friends, for the team and for himself.”
Ichiro, who also singled earlier in the game, started in right field his customary position for most of his legendary career. He entered the game with only one hit in 15 at-bats so far this season.
“I can’t really put a rank on that [hit], but this will definitely — I’ll remember this one,” Ichiro said. “This will be a special one for a while I’ll remember.”
The Marlins were able to procure the ball Ichiro hit and compensated the fan that caught it with a baseball Ichiro autographed for him after the game.
“They actually brought it to me,” Ichiro said. “I thought, ‘you know what, this will be a memorable something to hold onto.’ I was glad to get that.”
With the Marlins and Mariners in different leagues, it’s unclear when the Marlins would visit Seattle again. The two teams had not faced each other since 2011 at Safeco Field.
Ichiro has repeatedly expressed his desire publicly to play until he reaches the age of 50.
Ichiro said he did not think of the memorable at-bat as conclusively being his final one in Seattle.
“I didn’t think of it that way,” Ichiro said. “I think I’ll be back. Whenever the next game is here again, I hope to be back.”