Ichiro's 4K milestone among 2013's top moments
Historic achievement captured by teammates with touching on-field celebration
It's not often that a Major League Baseball game comes to a complete halt so that one player's teammates can emerge from the dugout to congratulate him on the field. Yet that's exactly what happened to Ichiro Suzuki on Aug. 21.
With the Yankees hosting the division-rival Blue Jays, Suzuki slapped a first-inning line drive off R.A. Dickey just past a diving Brett Lawrie at third base. Nothing unusual for Ichiro, except for the fact that this particular base hit was historic in that it marked the 4,000th of his professional career.
The game came to a temporary stop as the crowd gave Ichiro an extended standing ovation, and his teammates congratulated him at first base. Curtis Granderson led the charge out of the Yanks' dugout, enveloping Ichiro in an on-field hug.
"The game was stopped for me and the players came out to first base," Ichiro said at the time, through an interpreter. "I kind of felt bad that the game was stopped for me. At first, I was trying to stop them from coming, but it was just because I was so happy and overjoyed with the way they supported me.
"Obviously having the 4,000th hit was important, but what is going to make it a more special moment was the fact that my teammates came out. When I look back on this, that's what is going to make this very special."
Suzuki previously amassed 1,278 hits in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball as a member of the Orix Blue Wave from 1992-2000. He joined the Majors in 2001 and has since collected an additional 2,742 with the Mariners and Yankees for a total of 4,020.
With the Aug. 21 hit off Dickey, Ichiro joined Pete Rose (4,257) and Ty Cobb (4,191) as the only baseball players with at least 4,000 hits when combining totals from the highest levels in the U.S. and Japan.
Ichiro, however, modestly deflected the idea of being placed in a category alongside those two.
"It is a record that is adding two leagues into one; those guys did it in one league," Ichiro said. "I don't think you have to put me in that same category as them."
Regardless, the feat is certainly a historic one, according to Yankees captain Derek Jeter.
"That's a lot of hits, man. It's pretty impressive," Jeter said recently. "I don't care if it's 4,000 in Little League. It shows how consistent he's been throughout his career. It makes you look at how many hits he's got here [in the Majors] in a short amount of time. That's difficult to do, so Ichi has been as consistent as anyone."
Following Ichiro's 4,000th hit, the Yankees played a video tribute later in the game from Ken Griffey Jr., one of Ichiro's former teammates from his days with the Mariners. The M's also released a statement that day, which read: "On behalf of the entire Seattle Mariners organization and our fans across the Pacific Northwest, we offer our heartiest congratulations to Ichiro Suzuki for reaching 4,000 hits today.
"We are proud that Ichiro's remarkable career started in Seattle as American League MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, and that he collected 2,533 of those 4,000 hits while wearing a Mariners uniform for 11 1/2 years.
"From Japan to the Mariners and continuing with the New York Yankees, Ichiro's historic milestone is testament to his position as one of the greatest hitters in the game of baseball."
Fittingly, Ichiro also provided fans with one of the greatest stories from the 2013 season.
"After I got my first hit, if at that point I said to you guys, 'My goal is to have 4,000 hits,' I think everybody would have called me an idiot," Ichiro said. "Now, after years and years of just getting hits every day, I've come to this point. What is important is just going out there and doing what you can do every single day."