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Suzuki passes milestone in Yankees win

Japan's Ichiro Suzuki notches up his 4,000th pro-career hit in New York's win over the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

Last Modified: 22 Aug 2013 11:26
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The 38-year-old becomes one of three players who have reached over 4,000 hits in the major leagues [EPA]

Japan's Ichiro Suzuki wasted no time belting the 4,000th hit of his pro career, achieving the milestone in the first inning of New York's 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

His baseball-crazy home country, from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to school kids, erupted in joy over the feat with his father Nobuyuki urging him to go for more.

Yankees outfielder Suzuki performed the feat Wednesday by slicing one of Toronto pitcher R.A. Dickey's knuckleballs past diving third baseman Brett Lawrie and into left field in his first at-bat of the Major League Baseball contest.

The 39-year-old Suzuki, who has played professionally in both Japan and North America, finished the game one-for-four.

Suzuki's teammate Alfonso Soriano hit a tiebreaking two-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning as the Yankees handed the hapless Blue Jays their 12th consecutive loss in New York.

Modest bow

As soon as Suzuki stopped at first base, the New York players came out of the dugout to celebrate with him. The crowd stood and cheered and Suzuki acknowledged their applause with a modest bow.

It was supposed to be a number that was special to me, but what happened tonight, I wasn't expecting... The fans, I wasn't expecting so much joy and happiness from them.

Ichiro Suzuki ,

"It was supposed to be a number that was special to me, but what happened tonight, I wasn't expecting," said Suzuki.

"When my teammates came out to first base, that was very special. The fans, I wasn't expecting so much joy and happiness from them. That's what made it very special tonight; not just the number, but all the things that came with it were very special."

The 10-time all-star joins some elite company, with Pete Rose (4,256) and Hall of Famer Ty Cobb (4,189) the only two players to reach that elusive mark.

Cobb and Rose achieved their marks while playing their entire careers in American baseball.

Suzuki has now compiled 2,722 hits during his 13 seasons in America. He racked up his first 1,278 hits while playing nine years with the Orix Blue Wave in his native Japan from 1992-2000.

In Tokyo, major newspapers handed out extra editions mid-morning Thursday to mark the occasion.

"It's an astonishing figure," a smiling Prime Minister Abe told reporters at his executive mansion. "He has set a new, great standard for the world of baseball."

Ichiro's father, 70, who heads the player's management office, said: "I was moved to tears the moment he made the hit. I felt a lump in my throat."

"It's the 4,000th hit alright. But there is always someone better," the senior Suzuki told dozens of journalists in his family's hometown of Toyoyama near Nagoya, central Japan.

"I want him to work harder still to reach the top in the number of hits."

Inspiration

A dozen local school boys, wearing baseball uniforms, gathered at Toyoyama's town office to watch the Yankees-Blue Jays game live on a giant-screen TV.

Yukito Nagano, 12, told reporters: "It was a clean hit to the opposite field and was awesome."

"I want to become a player who can do the 'laser beam' throw like Ichiro," he added, referring to Suzuki's lightning ball-throwing skill.

Suzuki signed with the Seattle Mariners and recorded 242 hits in his US debut en route to winning both the American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards.

That began a streak of 10 straight seasons in which he collected 200-plus hits. That also included an American baseball record 262 in 2004, breaking the single-season mark held by George Sisler since 1920.

In July 2012, Suzuki moved from Seattle to the Yankees.

Among Suzuki's 2,722 hits in America, 2,228 have been singles. He has blasted 110 home runs over his career.

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Source:
AFP
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