Game 2: Curtain Call
March 21, 2019
We didn't know when the game began that Ichiro was calling it quits. That news came a few innings in. Kyodo News had the story and those of us keyed in to Twitter started getting the alerts. The ESPN broadcast caught up to us a bit later, and for half the game or so half the drama was how was Ichiro going to leave the game.
Much to my surprise, manager Scott Servais did right by Ichiro. He did not, as he did in game one, pull him after a third of the game for no particular reason. Instead he left the future Hall of Famer in right field all the way to the bottom of the 8th inning, when he had Ichiro take the field with the rest of the squad and ceremoniously had him come off the field to a standing ovation from the Tokyo Dome faithful. He had four ABs, all of which were greeted by plenty of feelings like this one, knowing these at-bats would be his last:
Please get a hit. Please get a hit Please get a hit Please get a hit Please get a hit Please get a hit Please get a hit— Taylor (@SeaTay15) March 21, 2019
He didn't, though; no Hollywood ending would be forthcoming. In his last big-league at-bat, he grounded out.
It hardly mattered in the end. Ichiro may not have won the game for his team—though the M's did come away with the win, 5-4 in 12 innings—but he was still the star of the night and the few minutes during his walk off the field and hugs and salute from his teammates was kind of overwhelming to watch. So many of us watching, who had seen Ichiro play so many games, were right there with Yusei Kikuchi and Felix Hernández and Dee Gordon, tears welling up and spilling out.
Ichiro and Dee Gordon. No bow...hug. pic.twitter.com/fbhUByNlsV— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 21, 2019
I don't know what factored into Ichiro's choice, but I'd like to think he'd decided to take charge of the situation and prevent a scenario where the Mariners would release him. After what happened last year, when he really was never given a chance to get going in the season before being taken off the roster, the likelihood of an ugly scene with the team cutting him like so much dead weight before next week's home opener was high. By going out under his own terms, not only did Ichiro save the Mariners from a no-win move, PR-wise, he created a moment for himself, his fans, and his nation yesterday will never be forgotten.
One final goodbye for a legend.— ESPN (@espn) March 21, 2019
Ichiro tips his cap to the Tokyo crowd as he leaves his last MLB game. pic.twitter.com/2FgBfpmIV2