Ichiro Suzuki’s longevity as a functional baseball player is noteworthy, and he now owns a notable MLB record.
In 2001 with the Seattle Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki’s transition from Japanese baseball to the major leagues was seamless. He won a batting title (.350 average), led the American League in stolen bases (56) and won a Gold Glove for his work in right field on his way to winning Rookie of the Year and MVP. Fred Lynn (in 1975) is only other player to win the latter two awards in the same season.
Suzuki is now in his third season with the Miami Marlins, as a part-time outfielder north of 40 years old. In late June, he became the oldest player to start a game in center field in baseball’s modern era at 43 years old. Rickey Henderson was one month younger when he did the same for the Boston Red Sox in 2002.
In the eighth inning of Thursday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Suzuki came to the plate against reliever Brett Cecil.
With his second hit of the ball game, Suzuki passed Rod Carew for 24th on MLB’s all-time list. He also passed the Hall of Famer for most hits by a foreign-born player with 3,054, and did it in two fewer seasons (17) than Carew did (19).
With his next hit, coincidentally, Suzuki will tie Henderson for 23rd among all MLB players. Counting his 1,278 hits in his home country, Ichiro has 4,332 hits in his professional baseball career. On a uniquely compiled list of players with over 4,000 hits in pro baseball — majors, minors or otherwise — Ichiro is only behind Pete Rose and Ty Cobb.
When Ichiro will retire is unclear, but he didn’t seem anywhere near ready to do so this past spring. He is without a major league contract for 2018 right now though, and with a .210 batting average this season coming into Thursday the odds of that changing don’t look great. But if a team happens to want him next year, I’m sure he’ll keep going.