Goodbye, Ichiro. And thank you.

Ichiro Goodbye
Ichiro announced his retirement Thursday after the M's 5-4 extra innings win over Oakland in Tokyo, Japan (Photo Courtesy: Getty Images)

I cried Thursday.

Maybe it was because I was awake and at work at 4am.  Maybe it was the fact that baseball retirements naturally make me emotional.  Maybe it was all of the above.

Whatever you call that feeling, it forced a few tears down my cheeks as I watched a childhood idol say goodbye to the sport, the craft, the game, he loves.

As Ichiro exited stage right, my mind drifted to many of his top moments as a Seattle Mariner, particularly the early years.  The 2001 season that saw him claim the American League Rookie of the Year AND the American League MVP.   The throw from Star Wars that nailed Terrance Long from right field.  The walk-off home run off the greatest closer in history.

 

My favorite Ichiro moment was at the MLB All Star game in 2007.  I used to record all the MLB All Star games on VHS as a kid, and that year the game was played at the house that Barry built, AT&T Park in San Francisco.  Ichiro delivered the game’s most memorable moment with his inside-the-park home run in the top of the 5th, coincidentally evading the pursuit of one Ken Griffey, Jr., distastefully donning a National League Cincinnati Reds uniform in right field.  It was a gem of a highlight, and PNW sports fans know the feeling of pride when a star of their own takes over the spotlight on a national stage.

These and so many more memories ran through my mind in a matter of seconds as I watched Ichiro go down the dugout steps of the Tokyo Dome, in front of the wonderful baseball fans in his home country.  And speaking of crying, how could you not be moved by the exchange between Ichiro and the young man making his Mariners and MLB debut that day, Yusei Kikuchi, who himself idolized Ichiro as a kid.

Kikuchi and Dee had me tearing up.  But the floodworks really opened when the King of Japan came down the dugout steps to embrace the the Kid himself.

So thank you, Ichiro.  Not just for the memories, but for providing us a new glimpse of how baseball could be played.  In an era marked with cheating, corruption, brashness, and arrogance, you played with effortlessness, grace, humility, and consistency.  You will be missed.  You already are.

 

Judah Newby is Associate Content Director of 1029TheGame.com.  Follow him on Twitter @JudahNewby

 

 

 

 

 

 

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