AL teammates eagerly await Ichiro's annual pregame All-Star speech, and the Mariners outfielder didn't disappoint them.
ANAHEIM — Ichiro’s briefest All-Star appearance in a decade of Mid-Summer Classics wasn’t without its moments.
In three innings before being replaced in the lineup by hometown favorite Torii Hunter of the Angels, Ichiro made a nice running, back-handed catch in the first inning to rob Albert Pujols of a bid for extra bases.
“It felt great, obviously, when you make a play like that,” Ichiro said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “It was also different because usually when you make that kind of catch here, Angel Stadium, all the fans boo and say bad stuff to you. But here, at the All-Star Game, they were all happy I made that catch. That was different.”
In two plate appearances in the AL’s 3-1 defeat, Ichiro popped out to shortstop in the first inning as the first hitter to face Colorado ace Ubaldo Jimenez, the National League starter, and struck out swinging against Florida’s Josh Johnson in the third. It was only his third whiff in 28 All-Star plate appearances, the others coming against Brad Penny (2006) and Dan Haren (2008).
Most Read Sports Stories
- Seahawks survive multiple turnovers to beat 49ers in 'crazy game'
- Seahawks-49ers GameCenter: Live updates, highlights, how to watch, stream
- Washington men's soccer team is heading to College Cup for first time after beating Saint Louis
- Washington State football will cap unique season with matchup against Miami in Sun Bowl
- Three things we learned from the Seahawks' inspired 30-23 victory over the 49ers
Ichiro’s other contribution to the AL cause came before the game, when he was called upon in the pregame team meeting to give his annual inspirational speech. Actually, it’s more like an obscenity-laced monologue, to the never-ending amusement of his teammates.
Ichiro has said he’s not quite sure how the tradition started, but it dates to his first All-Star Game in Seattle in 2001. Boston’s David Ortiz, among others, insists Ichiro does it every year. Here’s how Justin Morneau of the Twins described it in 2008, referring to the previous year’s All-Star Game:
“He was sitting in the locker back there, and David Ortiz said, ‘Ichi’s got something to say.’ And then he pops out and everybody started dying. I had no idea it was coming. It was hilarious.
“It’s hard to explain the effect that is it has. You know, it’s such a tense environment. Everyone’s kind of a little nervous for the game. He doesn’t say a lot the whole time he’s in there, and all of a sudden the manager gets done with the speech and he pops out. It’s pretty funny.”
Asked how this year’s speech went, Ichiro replied in English, “Bad.” Then he elaborated in Japanese.
“It’s actually a little embarrassing. We’ve been doing this a long time. I think it’s time to turn the page.”
Now that the American League’s win streak is over, ending any superstitious attachment his teammates could cling to, that might be possible. Ichiro’s only year so far to escape the pregame address was 2009, when President Obama threw out the first pitch in St. Louis and visited the clubhouse before the game, leaving no time for a meeting.
“Big Papi (Ortiz) is the one that always stirs it up,” Ichiro said. “He’s the one that actually makes me do stuff like that. In a way, I kind of wish he won’t be on the team. At the same time, he’s a good friend. But having him on the team kind of keeps me depressed.”
Ichiro was asked how he would react if video of his speech wound up on YouTube.
“If I were to see that on the internet, I’d probably want to go home,” he said.
Ichiro now has one day to kill before the Mariners resume their second half Thursday against the Angels in the same stadium.
“I’m actually trying to find a way to work out,” he said. “Unfortunately, these guys (the Angels) will be working out here tomorrow, so I can’t use the field.”
Perhaps the Angels would let him join them, it was suggested.
“It depends on them, not me,” he said. “I have my red jersey and red hat. I could make it happen if they allow me.”