While the rest of Major League Baseball focused on starting pitchers who might be traded before Tuesday’s deadline, the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners worked out a headline r of a trade.
The Mariners sent future Hall-of-Fame outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees for two minor league pitchers.
Even Suzuki’s Mariners teammates did not know about the trade until seeing a report on television in the Seattle clubhouse.
“That’s why you don’t ever listen to rumours,” Derek Jeter, the Yankees captain, said, expressing surprise on the New York end, too. “Getting someone like this is unbelievable.”
Suzuki was one of the few who actually knew about the deal. Howard Lincoln, the Mariners chief executive, said Suzuki asked to be traded a few weeks ago, not wanting to give up playing time to younger players when he knew the last-placed Mariners would be rebuilding.
Suzuki also saved the Mariners from an unpopular decision of letting their star player, despite declining talents and a US$18 million (Dh66.1m) annual salary, depart in free agency at the end of the year.
The trade was made when the Yankees were in Seattle, so Suzuki just switched clubhouses and uniforms. Mariners fans gave him a long ovation before his first at-bat. Suzuki stepped out of the batter’s box, took off his helmet and bowed twice.
Friday night, he played his first game at Yankee Stadium in New York. He got a hit and scored twice as the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 10-3.
Suzuki said he knows he will have to work hard to win over the New York fans.
“As a visitor you come in here, a lot of fans in the stands are tough on the players,” he said through a translator. “Right now I’m wearing the pinstripes. When I go out there, hopefully those fans will be on my side. But obviously I need to do well … so they will be on my side.”
During his time in Seattle, Suzuki was to offence what Hideo Nomo was to pitching in the Japanese movement in Major League Baseball – a trailblazer.
He was the first Japanese position player in the major leagues. He won two batting titles and set a season-record with 262 hits in 2004. He is a 10-time Gold Glover and 10-time All-Star.
“Ichiro changed Major League Baseball and the game at the international level,” Lincoln told The Seattle Times.
“I’ll miss watching the most exciting all-around player I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”
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