He looks like he belongs out there, still all these years later.

Ichiro, at age 48, returned to Seattle earlier this week, and returned to a familiar place in the outfield grass at T-Mobile Park.

A day before his formal induction into the Mariners Hall of Fame, Ichiro spent Friday afternoon going through many of the same pregame routines he meticulously mastered in 14 seasons playing right field for the Mariners.

He wore an M’s hat and a navy blue workout shirt over a mock turtleneck as he played long toss, shagged fly balls and chatted in the outfield with the Mariners’ newest star, Julio Rodriguez.

Ichiro said he has stayed in shape, three years after his retirement, in part so he could help coach Rodriguez and others.

“If I don’t continue to do what I’m doing physically — be ready in training — I won’t be able to really help them,” said Ichiro, who has remained with the organization in a part-time role as special assistant to the chairman and de facto coach. “I know there’s former players that can teach and tell them what to do. But I think it’s more valuable to be able to show them how that is.”


Ken Griffey Jr. was among the former Mariners who arrived at the ballpark Friday. They’re all here to celebrate Ichiro, but of course everyone was talking about Julio, just a few hours after news of the rookie center fielder’s massive contract extension surfaced.

“I don’t like to really have high expectations in people,” Ichiro said, speaking through interpreter Allen Turner. “(But) he’s somebody that kind of forces me to expect something great from him. … He has all this potential, but he really, really wants to be better and do whatever he can to be that player that he wants to become. And so whatever I can do to help him, I really want to help him.”

Ichiro had a chance to catch up with the franchise’s most renowned center fielder Friday afternoon.

“I saw Junior today,” Ichiro said, “and, man, what a star he is. You can just feel it. I hadn’t seen him in a while. I definitely don’t want to put myself in that same category, up to him, but I want to be able to contribute to the Mariners in whatever way I can continue to help this organization.”

The Mariners, who entered Friday holding the third and final wild-card spot, are seeking their first postseason berth since Ichiro’s first season in Seattle in 2001.


“It’s tough to compare it to that 2001 team, where you play a game — and you win. That was really what it was like in 2001,” Ichiro said. “But I’ve been away a little bit (this summer) and I came back to the team just about a week ago, and when I saw them and talked to the guys, just the energy that I could feel from them was different. I knew this is special.

“These guys have something that’s not common, and so it’s something that really excited me, to feel their energy and to know that OK, this is good, that this is something special.”

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled to begin at 6:25 p.m. Saturday. The Mariners previously announced the game (7:10 p.m. start) against Cleveland has sold out.

Ichiro said writing his induction speech has been stressful.

“You know, preparing for a game is — I can’t say easy, but it doesn’t compare to what this preparation for tomorrow is,” Ichiro said. “I mean, I have a stomach ache thinking about the speech. This might be my second ulcer.”

Ty France feeling better

Ty France was held out of the lineup for Friday night’s game against the Guardians, a day after he exited the series opener because of a calf bruise.

France texted manager Scott Servais on Friday morning that he was OK, but Servais wanted to give his All-Star first baseman a day to recover. Servais said he would consider using France off the bench as a pinch-hitter if the situation called for that.