Dee Gordon thought his words would be enough for everyone to understand the situation. They’d come from his heart. They were honest and emotional. They said everything that he wanted to his hero, his friend and his teammate — Ichiro.
So when the media surrounded his locker Thursday afternoon, hours before the Mariners’ home opener at T-Mobile Park, he was a little taken aback.
“Uh, I did not expect all of this,” he said with wide eyes.
But his decision to take out a full-page ad in Thursday’s Seattle Times sports section to personally thank Ichiro was such an unexpected gesture that people had to ask about it. His words weren’t going to be enough.
The decision process came during a sleepless night after the team returned from Tokyo.
“One night I was kind of jet lagged and still up and I texted my agent in the middle of night, telling him I want to do this,” Gordon said.
Gordon’s agent, Nate Heisler, contacted the Times about the possibility on Saturday, March 23, inquiring about taking out an ad on behalf of his client.
The next task was deciding on what Gordon wanted to say in the ad. He wanted to thank Ichiro for everything that he’d meant to him, which wasn’t easy to put into words. So he sat down and began to write out what he wanted to say via text message.
“It came from the heart, but my agent definitely edited it,” he said. “I text like I talk sometimes. It ain’t perfect English every time.”
That’s a long text, but jet lag helps. But it was more than a time-zone change that caused Gordon to take out the ad.
“It was just something that came to me,” he said. “Honestly, I didn’t think that writing up an Instagram post or something would be meaningful enough and he probably wouldn’t be able to see it.”
Gordon feared that the ultra-private Ichiro might not like it and become upset.
“I kind of thought this was over the top too,” Gordon said. “So I texted him and was like ‘Hey, I did something. I apologize if you don’t like it. But I did it.’ He liked it, surprisingly.”
Ichiro’s retirement in Japan was a momentous occasion. Few players get honored in that way.
“Pretty cool way,” Gordon said. “I’m going to be honest with you. The way it was going I didn’t think he was ever going to walk away.”
Full text of the letter below:
“First of all, I want to say thank you for being a great friend to me and being my favorite player to this day.
“You made me want to play baseball. I idolized you as a kid in Avon Park. We even named a player after you in an old video game that came out before I was born.
“Then, here comes 2012. The Dodgers are in Seattle playing you guys. I’m standing at shortstop watching every move you make, and I end up adding to your hit total. I got caught up paying more attention to watching you hit than actually playing defense! (Sorry, Dodgers, but that’s Ichiro, you know?)
“The next day, you were traded to the Yankees before I could even talk to you about hitting. I was crushed, but then came 2015. I had just been traded to Miami, and a few days later, you signed there!
“Now I’m jumping up and down, yelling to my best friend, ‘YO!!! I get to play with Ichi-bruh?! Like, are you serious? Me? No way!’ I remember going to Jupiter early, just hoping you were there so I could watch you hit and run. When you finally arrived, I nervously walked over to you and bro, you were so nice to me. You told me you would help me in any way possible. I swear, it hit me hard. To this day, I be saying ‘Yo! I play with Ichi!? How? I’m from little Avon Park!’
“People don’t know how much you’ve helped me over these last five years, Ichi. We both know I’ve had good times, bad times, ups and downs, but your friendship has never wavered once. You always stuck by my side through anything, and always had my back. If I was wronged, you would stick up for me every time, even if it hurt you getting on the field.
“I didn’t think a tweet or Instagram post was appropriate for this occasion, so I wanted to do it in the right way and tell you how much I appreciate you as loudly as possible. Without your friendship and guidance — and if you never told me your secrets (don’t worry, bro, I’ll never tell!) — there wouldn’t be a batting champion named Dee Gordon.
“Love you, bro! You’re a part of my life forever. I hope you enjoy retirement. You better come hit with me on off-days because I’m definitely gonna miss that — and miss having you around to lean on.”
Gordon signed the letter with his birth name.
“Your brother, DeVaris”