‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Ichiro has finally found a stage worthy of his stardom, magnetism and unique abilities on the baseball diamond. That stage is, of course, Yankee Stadium.
The bright lights and atmosphere of Yankee Stadium have awakened Ichiro. Coming to New York has been the perfect remedy for a player who thrives on attention and enjoys entertaining fans by making flashy plays in the outfield.
He’s always been a rock star to fans in Japan and Seattle. Had Ichiro stayed in Japan for the entirety of his career, he would’ve been looked upon by worldwide audiences as a player like Sadaharu Oh.
The all-time Japanese home run king is a mythical figure to fans of Major League Baseball; he played in an era of Japanese baseball when players were forced to stay in Japan. Oh dominated major league pitching in 110 exhibition game appearances, but never got his opportunity to truly show America his home run exploits.
Thankfully, Hideo Nomo was able to find a contractual loophole that allowed modern day Japanese players to follow his path to the major leagues. In 2001, Ichiro became an instant hit in Seattle and megastar across the United States.
While Ichiro enjoyed tremendous individual success during his 12 years with the Mariners, there was still a missing chapter to his career. Outside of his storybook rookie season in 2001, he was part of a team that was stuck in constant mediocrity.
Ichiro was the one shining light in Seattle and a change of scenery was long overdue.
He was like the rock star who achieved success at Budokan and thrived on the Seattle grunge scene, but never had the chance to play Madison Square Garden.
Weeks before the MLB trade deadline, Ichiro finally got that call he desired to join the Yankees — the biggest rock band in all of baseball. The ultimate showman from Seattle was joining the Beatles of baseball. It’s as if Jimi Hendrix picked up his guitar and suddenly joined “The Fab Four” to form a supergroup.
The crowds at Yankee Stadium have instantly taken to their new star and Ichiro looks very comfortable in pinstripes. Last night, Ichiro’s new fanbase showered him with affection after he sent two home runs into the right field stands. His solo shots were key in the Yankees’ 4-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
Even Ichiro was overcome by the atmosphere of Yankee Stadium. “It felt so good, you know? Sometimes you just don’t know how to react on the field, the timing of when to acknowledge it,” Suzuki said after Sunday’s win. “I was embarrassed.”
He’s always had deceptive power, Safeco Field forced Ichiro to use its spacious outfield dimensions to spray singles. Yankee Stadium offers Ichiro the opportunity to use his quick wrists to aim line drives at the short porch in right field.
Joe Girardi believes Ichiro can take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s dimensions that favor left-handed hitters.
“I think he’s probably hit to his ballpark, in a sense, all those years. Seattle plays extremely large and if he had been a Yankee for a number of years, who knows how many he might have hit? But we know that there’s power there,” Girardi said on Sunday night.
Since joining the Yankees, Ichiro has hit .322 with with 3 home runs, 13 RBIs, 5 doubles and 4 stolen bases in 26 games.
If you were to stretch these statistics over 156 games, Ichiro would have 18 home runs, 78 RBIs, 30 doubles and 24 stolen bases.
Ichiro, always the improvisor is tailoring his swing to his new home and is already delighting his new fan base.
It’s been an encouraging start for Ichiro. He’s been waiting 11 years to return to playoff stage and it doesn’t get any bigger than October nights at Yankee Stadium.
How good of a fit has Ichiro been for the Yankees? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.