Editor’s note: The following is the transcript of a speech given by Mariners legend Ichiro to fans in a pregame ceremony honoring him before Saturday’s game at T-Mobile Park.
Thank you. I am so nervous.
OK, let’s do it.
Dee [Gordon], Yusei [Kikuchi], no crying tonight. No crying.
This is a happy occasion. When I retired that night in Tokyo, I had an incomplete feeling because the great fans of Seattle could not be there. Tonight I want to express my appreciation to you for your touching support over the years. When I came to Seattle in 2001, no position player had ever come from Japan before. The one you got was 27 years old, small, skinny and unknown.
You had every reason not to accept me. However, you welcomed me with open arms and you have never stopped, even when I left and came back. I was so grateful for the chance to return in 2018 and the reason is you fans.
Thank you Seattle. I also appreciate the fans across America who supported me in New York, Miami, and even in many places as a visiting player. Baseball is truly a national pastime in America and I was so happy to play in front of the people who love and respect the game so much.
It has to be an honor to play baseball with and against some of the greatest competitors I have ever known. They inspired me to raise my game to a higher level.
Now, I have the pleasure of spending time with these young and talented players who will bring the franchise a championship.
Despite the language and culture gap, not to mention an age difference, of 20 years, I enjoy being around them because I feel their passion for the game I love is genuine. As I look back to my career, if there’s anything that gives me pride, it is that I overcame the daily challenges and I have an equal passion for each day, from the first one in 2001 to the last one in 2019. As we enter the final days of a long season, every player should remind himself what does it mean to be a professional. These last days are just as important as the first ones and all those in between. Every day you need to go about your business with the same passion. That is the greatest gift you can give to your performance and to the fans who come to enjoy this special game.
To the Seattle Mariners organization, I am forever grateful to you for giving me the chance to play the game I love in the city I have come to love. Thank you also to my family for your endless support.
Now, let’s play baseball.