Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki put the familiar Seattle Mariners jersey back on, as he returns to his old team as the oldest fielder in the U.S. Major League Baseball this season.
The Mariners officially announced Wednesday that it had signed a contract with Ichiro. According to ESPN, he signed a one-year, 750,000 U.S. dollar contract with his former club. He can earn up to an additional 1.25 million dollars in performance bonuses. “Somewhere deep inside, I wanted to return and wear this uniform again,” Suzuki said.
As he returns to the Mariners, he will likely have frequent encounters with the Texas Rangers’ Korean outfielder Choo Shin-soo, as the two clubs will face off in 19 matches in the American League West this season.
Both players spent some years of their Major League careers with the Mariners. Ichiro had his heydays with the club, while Choo became successful after leaving it.
Choo signed a contract with the Mariners after graduating from Busan High School in 2001. Choo made his Big League debut in the Mariners after spending four years in the Minor League, but Ichiro was standing before him like a huge mountain. Both were lefties and had the same right-fielder position.
In 2006, the Mariners recommended Ichiro to concede the position to Choo and move to the middle field, only to be flatly rejected by the Japanese. Then, the club traded Choo to the Cleveland Indians. Choo admitted he was “angry” at that time, but the deal turned out to be a blessing in disguise for him. Solidifying his position as a full-time Major Leaguer with the Indians, Choo signed a seven-year, 130 million-dollar-deal with the Texas Rangers in late 2013, after playing with the Cincinnati Reds.
In an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo last year, Choo expressed his “respect” for Ichiro as a baseball player, lauding the Japanese player for his rigorous self-management that allowed him to stay ready to play in games at all times despite his age.
Citing his back number 51, Ichiro said that while many people thought he wanted to play until 50 years of age, he wants to play “at least” until 50.
Heon-Jae Lee email@example.com