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Ichiro: An Ode and a Goodbye

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Ichiro is a New York Yankee. That sentence seems impossible. But here we are. As real as it undeniably is, it will always feel unreal. Ichiro, Seattle Mariners right fielder and intergalactic sports icon, is gone.

Here is a piece of his legacy, as this fan tells it:

My wife loves Ichiro. She is an academic and a romantic. She moved to Seattle in 2004 for graduate school at the UW. She loves baseball. She’s no baseball addict, but she truly appreciates the magic and nuance of baseball – enough that she can tolerate living with and loving an addict. She grew to love baseball and the Mariners by watching and admiring Ichiro. She loved the discipline of his routines. Was fascinated with the respect he had for his bat, his most revered tool of the trade. She marveled at the graceful control with which he patrolled the outfield. Ichiro was the lens through which she learned to love baseball. In many ways, he was her primary connection to the game.

So when I called her yesterday afternoon, in the middle of her day, to tell her Ichiro had been traded to the Yankees, she cried. She really did, I’m not messing around. Later, at home, she said simply, “I’m not ready for this,” and wept. This was her first baseball heartbreak. I can’t say I reacted the same way. I felt shocked and unsettled and a little ill. I loved Ichiro, too, but other Mariners have occupied bigger spaces in my sports-loving heart. I felt awful because I knew how bad she felt. I knew that pain. Chambers and Junior and G.P. and Ray. And all the others in between. Every time it happens, you are more hardened to it. You build calluses. We live in a sporting world with very few happy endings. And this was not the happy ending my wife had envisioned for herself and Ichiro.

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