When he went to his position in right field for the second inning, Suzuki tipped his cap to the fans who greeted him with a standing ovation.
The Mariners tweeted a statement: “Ichiro’s historic milestone is testament to his position as one of the greatest hitters in the game of baseball.”
Suzuki’s postgame news conference with the Japanese media lasted a whopping 47 minutes.
A .353 hitter in Japan in a career that began in 1992, Suzuki became the first Japanese-born non-pitcher to sign with a major league team. He smoothly made the move from Orix to the Mariners in 2001 when he was 27. He was selected AL Rookie of the Year and MVP in his first season, when he batted .350, had 242 hits and stole 56 bases.
Suzuki had at least 206 hits in each of his first 10 years in the majors, peaking in 2004 when he set the record for hits in a season with 262, topping George Sisler’s mark of 257 established in 1920. He has a .320 career average in the majors.
According to STATS, Suzuki has the most hits through the first 13 seasons of a big league career. Paul Waner is second with 2,648 hits for Pittsburgh from 1926-38.
“It’s unbelievable, 4,000 hits,” Alfonso Soriano said after hitting a tiebreaking two-run homer that led New York to a 4-2 victory over the Blue Jays. “To get 4,000 hits, you have to be a great hitter.”
The slender 10-time All-Star seemingly can place the ball wherever he wants with a slashing swing that makes him look more like an epee-wielding fencer than a professional baseball player.
With a fashion sense nearly as unique as his swing, Suzuki often wears skinny jeans cuffed at the bottom to show off a rainbow of shoes and socks. Sporting clothes by his favorite designer, Thom Browne, he looks more like a 20-something than a graying star.
Despite his age, Suzuki should have a good shot at the revered major league mark of 3,000 hits. He is signed for one more year with New York at $6.5 million, and the 10-time Gold Glove winner is still an outstanding outfielder.
Ever since he was an 18-year-old rookie for Orix who didn’t think he was ready to be called up to the big club, Suzuki’s approach has been one at-bat at a time. And his thought process wasn’t any different when he tried to embrace the idea of 3,000 major league hits, an accepted marker for a Hall of Fame career.
“I don’t make goals that are so far away,” Suzuki said. “What I do is do what I can every day and really build off that and see where that takes me.”
AP Sports Writer Jim Armstrong in Tokyo contributed to this report.