Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Ichiro Suzuki in Miami

Why Does He Look So Happy?


 
I’ll bet I became a fan of Ichiro Suzuki at the same time most other people did. Namely, on April 11th 2001 when he fired a screamer from right field to nail Terrence Long at third base. Since that day, whether on the ESPN highlight reel or in the occasional game I’d catch on TV, watching Ichiro has always been a supreme pleasure, for his artistry as well as his level-headed attitude. (Notice the non-reaction after that throw?)

And while his play amazed, his demeanor intrigued, to the point I where wondered if the guy even cared about winning.

 

 
Sure, he was right there in the middle of the celebration, helping toss the manager into the air after driving in the winning run for the Orix Blue Wave in the 1996 Japan Series. In this interview after Japan’s victory in the first World Baseball Classic in 2006 he talks about what a great group of guys that team was, and how this was the greatest day, the greatest moment of his baseball career.

Still, I’d say his focus was not on winning titles but on being the best baseball player he could be. I think that was his championship. The rest was just gravy.
 

 
He absolutely cared about winning. Cared about it every game, every at bat. Cared about it on every play. Cared not about champagne or a trophy, but about his own version of victory.

Knew that his version of winning renewed itself every play, every moment. No time to get excited about that last play, the next one is on the way. Level-headed. Unemotional. Laser-like. Until it’s all over. And if it turns out he’s a champion, he’ll celebrate.

Maybe that’s why he now seems so at ease down there in Miami, in the twilight (can we assume?) of his career. He’s done his thing, and done it as well as anybody on the planet. Time to celebrate. Time to enjoy it all.

Because what’s left to do, catch Pete Rose?