Longtime Seattle Mariner Ichiro took time out of retirement to spend a day with a Japanese high school baseball team that penned him a heartfelt letter.
Ichiro spent 28 years playing professional baseball, but these days, the 48-year-old is taking it easy in retirement.
“Taking it easy” for Ichiro doesn’t mean he’s off the field though, as the Japanese baseball legend graced the diamond once again in a different capacity: as a mentor to Japanese youth.
In January, a group of students from Japan’s Kokugakuin Kugayama High School wrote a letter addressed the future Hall-of-Fame inductee, asking him to be a guest instructor at one of their practices. Eleven months after receiving the letter, Ichiro surprised the kids by showing up to their practice on Nov. 29.
“The letter oozes with your passion,” Ichiro told the group, according to The Yomiuri Shimbun. “I have put it in the drawer where I keep important things and I’ll treasure it.”
Ichiro then taught the high schoolers a thing or two by drilling homers deep into right field.
Ichiro responds to heartfelt letter from Japanese high schoolers by unexpectedly showing up to baseball practice
Showing off the swing that made him the batter with the most hits in professional baseball history, Ichiro added a few more hits to his count as onlooking students watched the master at work. The high schoolers grin and stare in wonder, with one student visibly mouthing, “whoa.”
But the hits weren’t just to demonstrate his unparalleled skill: Ichiro took the time to show the students the proper mechanics for batting, running the bases and swiping a bag.
“If you swing your arms back, you can widen your stride by a step,” Ichiro told the students. “And you can take bigger steps when your shoulder blades start to get involved.”
Twenty years ago, Ichiro made MLB history when he became the first Japanese-born position player to be posted and signed by an MLB club. Later that season, he won the AL Rookie of the Year Award and the AL MVP Award. His legacy paved the way for players like Shohei Ohtani, the 2021 AL MVP winner.
While Ohtani is playing in his prime for the Los Angeles Angels, Ichiro is back home passing along greatness to future generations of Japanese baseball stars.Internet Explorer Channel Network