I like to write about baseball in spring. It reminds me of life and life lessons.
Ichiro played a final game in Tokyo this week as the Mariners opened their season in Japan. It was fitting that he got to go out that way, to adoring fans, on the Island where he began his journey. A journey in which he squeezed out of his baseball body and life every ounce that could be squeezed. His dedication and discipline was amazing, but up close, it’s been said he almost looked like a prisoner.
He had been playing baseball for 42 of his 45 years.
And there’s the rub; he has made no bones about the tortuous training regimen his father forced upon him.. beginning at age three… making him at once the best trained player in the sport, yet trapped by paternal and cultural expectations of his greatness. In the ultimate stoic move, he acknowledged that life is 10% what happens and 90% what you do about it. He simply became the best baseball player his own body could produce. He also used his first name (Ichiro) instead of his family’s (Suzuki).
And through this, his training regimen was immaculate, as was his approach to the game.
I love how he respected his gear. His bat was tapped methodically to hear the tightness of the grain in the wood- indicative of bat strength. When he visits the Hall of Fame (soon as a member), he has been known to tap on Ty Cobb’s bat, listening for the same tell tale sound. His stance at the plate was perfection; balanced, coiled, ready for attack. His eye was meticulous; rarely did an umpire surprise him with a call… and never surprised him twice (fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice, shame on me). But what most impressed me was “Area 51”, the tract of land he patrolled in the (mostly Seattle) outfield that rarely yielded an uncaught ball. He got a jump on everything by knowing who was pitching, batting, the count and the situational importance of ever pitch. He guessed well, and he was usually there before the ball landed. And if it did… there was the Arm which, in his first year in the MLB, threw out a runner at third with a laser. It shocked everyone.
Everyone but Ichiro. Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.
“There is timing in the whole life of the warrior, in his thriving and declining, in his harmony and discord.”
–Musashi Miyamoto (circa 1584-1645), samurai and artist