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Sports : Tuesday, April 03, 2001

Dad takes in Ichiro's debut
By Bob Finnigan
Seattle Times staff reporter

The man responsible for starting Ichiro on the path that led him to Opening Night at Safeco Field was watching attentively from the first row behind the Mariner dugout last night.

Nobuyuki Suzuki, Ichiro's father, had come to see his son make his debut on this side of the Pacific Ocean, far in time as well as distance from the days when he faithfully took his child to practice.


"During the day, Mr. Suzuki would work at his small cooler repair shop," said Ted Heid, Mariner scout and interpreter. "Later in the afternoon, he would take Ichiro to a nearby elementary school where they would use the field for playing catch and hitting, taking ground balls and running."

The two would go home, Ichiro would do his homework, and then the father would take his son to the local batting center, which is what the Japanese call batting cages.

According to some of the Japanese media, the elder Suzuki spent many coins feeding the pitching machines so Ichiro could hone his skills.

"There probably was a bit of money involved," Heid said. "But it was much more an investment of time. They had a deal, you see. Mr. Suzuki agreed to put in the time, and Ichiro agreed to put in the effort."

In a statement issued to the Japanese media before the game, Suzuki's father said: "I wish Ichiro the best after his signing (with the Mariners) and that he keeps well in this situation of playing baseball in a very different world. I wish him well playing because it is his most favorite thing."

The 57-year old retiree, who now helps Ichiro with some of his business affairs, said he worried how his son would do playing in the United States. "But I am actually very pleased to see he is doing well here," he added.

Ichiro smiled when a reporter mentioned his dad being at the game.

"It's a special night for me," he said. "This makes it very special."