Mariners icon Ichiro Suzuki plans to retire

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Getty Image

Roenis Elias relieved and got Matt Chapman to hit a comebacker, but first baseman Jay Bruce dropped the throw, allowing a run to score.

Ichiro became the second-oldest position player to start an opener, only trailing long time Major leaguer Julio Franco, who was a few months older when he played for the Atlanta Braves in the 2004 season opener. While it is probably fair to attribute their success to Hideo Nomo, numerous new Japanese arms, including Hisashi Iwakuma, Yu Darvish,Masahiro Tanaka, and of course Shohei Ohtani, have mentioned Ichiro as a major influence on their journey to the big leagues.

In that 2001 season, the Mariners won an AL record 116 games, but lost in the ALCS to the Yankees.

A sellout of 45,000 turned out again to watch Ichiro and Mariners rookie pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, who made his first start in the majors.

M's manager Scott Servais sent Ichiro out to play rightfield in the 8th and then let him have a final curtain call to an entire nation.

Ichiro was in the starting lineup for the Mariners against the Oakland Athletics in Thursday's game. In his last at-bat, he came up with two outs, a runner on second and a tie score in the eighth.

Ichiro provided his usual flair during the days in Tokyo leading to his final two games. Santana again was the hero, chasing down Profar's fly ball to left field and crashing against the wall in a successful effort to record the final out. Because Seattle's three-game April series in Cleveland was snowed out, Major League Baseball had Ichiro's crew endure three separate return trips on off days during the season to make up the contests.

He has 3,089 hits since joining the Mariners in 2001, and another 1,278 playing earlier in Japan - baseball's all-time hits leader.

But his 2-for-28 Spring Training performance is a further reminder that time waits for no man - or professional baseball player. Hideki Matsui was perhaps the next most notable Japanese superstar, but players like So Taguchi, Akinori Iwamura, Nori Aoki, and Munenori Kawasaki all made their big-league dreams a reality thanks to Ichiro's journey.

The fans got one more chance to salute when he came back on the field after the game and acknowledged their ovations. In exhibition games prior to the games against the A's, Suzuki had two hits in 31 at-bats.

Kikuchi, who went to the same high school as Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, signed with Seattle in January after pitching for the Seibu Lions in Japan. "It's just happiness. Of course, I thought about the fans in Seattle".

But it was time for Suzuki to step away. The 45-year-old went 0-for-4 on Thursday morning for the Mariners vs the Athletics in Tokyo, Japan. "I think that sets him apart", Small added.

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