Letting things happen naturally
Ichiro the actor
Ichiro is one of the finest atheletes in Japanease Baseball (Photos by TADASHI AIZAWA)
Ichiro was born in 1973 in Toyoyama, Aichi Prefecture. After graduating from Meiden High School (affiliated with the Aichi Institute of Technology), he joined the Orix BlueWave as a fourth-round draft pick. In 1994, his third season, Ichiro set a new record in Japanese baseball with 210 base hits, and he has been the leading hitter for four straight years (he hit .345 in 1997). An all-around player who excels at hitting, running, and fielding, Ichiro is one of Japanese baseball's biggest stars.
In the spring of 1994, Ichiro Suzuki changed his professional name to Ichiro. Ichiro's coach at the time, who came up with the idea, offered the following reason for the change: "Suzuki is the second-most-common surname in Japan after Sato. If we use that name he's not going to stand out in the crowd. In professional baseball, there are eleven Suzukis, but there's only one Ichiro". And so it was that Ichiro Suzuki began playing baseball under his first name.
That season, at the tender age of 21, Ichiro accomplished what no other player in the 50 years of Japanese professional baseball had ever done: pound out 200 hits. He finished the season with 210 and coasted to his first batting title--a title that he captured for the fourth year running in 1997. He has earned the right to be called a superstar.
As a child, Ichiro was a fan of the Chunichi Dragons. This was only natural, since the Dragons are based in Nagoya, near his home town. However, Ichiro was drafted by the Orix BlueWave of Kobe. Although he had hoped to join the Dragons, Ichiro accepted the draft gracefully. The same went for his name change. Ichiro believes in accepting his fate, as long as it is supported by the good intentions of the people around him.
However, there are some things even the placid Ichiro will not go along with. During his second season, when he was shuffled back and forth between the parent team and the minor leagues, the manager of the top team told him to change the unique, pendulum-like batting style he had developed with his minor-league coach. Ichiro refused, preferring to be demoted to the farm team than comply with this directive.
It seems that even when he was still known by his last name, Ichiro has always been able to see his own path clearly. He has always been a truth seeker, and when he believes a certain path is the right one, he follows it to the very end.
Ichiro the actorIchiro is not unanimously popular with the media. Reporters often complain that Ichiro does not really speak his mind, and that his guarded responses do not make for good copy. His answer to the first question of this interview was a prime example.