From Japan to Jupiter to see Ichiro
JUPITER, Fla. — Call it legend, or maybe it is just myth. Either way, the story about to be told truly reveals the global impact of Ichiro Suzuki.
A man named, Tats Suzuki (no relation) actually traveled from Japan to Jupiter just to see the iconic Ichiro. As the story was relayed to me, Tats waited for an autograph from his idol, and after receiving one, he departed the next day to return to Japan.
I assume this story to be true because it was verified by two people who were present at the Roger Dean Stadium complex. My regret is not knowing earlier, which prevented me from actually interviewing the man said to be in his early 40s. And actually, after posting this blog, Tats contacted me. Initially, I was told his name was believed to be “Kats,” but he noted it is Tats (Tatsunori). My apologies.
“Ichiro Mania” is certainly nothing new on the world stage. The 41-year-old future Hall of Famer has been a sensation since he was a teenager in Japan, and during his remarkable career with the Mariners. The 10-time All-Star spent the past couple of seasons with the Yankees before signing as a free agent with the Marlins in January.
Miami’s Spring Training home in Jupiter, Fla., is starting to understand what so many other places already know when it comes to Ichiro. The 41-year-old, 10-time All-Star is more than just a baseball superstar. He is a legend. He’s a Michael Jordan-like figure in his native country.
The tale of Tats Suzuki is more proof.
From what I’ve gathered, Tats traveled to Florida for a couple of reasons. He ran the Jensen Beach Marathon on Sunday, but his mission was much more than running 26 miles. The next day, aware Ichiro wasn’t playing in the Marlins’ exhibition against Florida International University, Tats made the 30-mile trip to Jupiter.
He stood behind the barred gate that blocks the public from the players on their way to the parking lot. Tats, who speaks pretty good English, told those in the crowd how much he respected Ichiro. And how proud he is to share the Suzuki name.
When finished with his workouts, Ichiro headed to his car, but stopped to sign about 10 autographs. Not pushing himself into the crowd, Tats stood patiently in the distance. It was brought to Ichiro’s attention that a man from Japan made his way from Tokyo to South Florida simply for a signature. Tats did get the autograph, as well as a picture. He even caught a couple of innings of the Miami-FIU game.
The next day he was gone, said to be back to Japan, where he brings a signature and a great story.
— Joe Frisaro