Mariners fans adjust to loss of an icon
While one fan at Safeco Field on Monday was "blown away" by the trade of Ichiro to the Yankees, others said it was just baseball business as usual.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Mariners' trade of Ichiro to the Yankees drew mixed reactions from fans — some surprised, some not — during the opener of the teams' three-game series at Safeco Field on Monday night.
"I was just blown away," said Josh Wei, 23. "They didn't give any hints about it. We didn't see it coming and it's like Ichiro was just a huge part of our ballclub. It's just crazy how they trade him away."
Wei came to the game in an Ichiro shirt, expecting to see him in his normal spot in right field for the Mariners. Ichiro was still in right field, but for the opposing team.
"We're not contenders, so the fans all come here to watch Ichiro," Wei said. "Now he's gone, it's like what else do we have to come see?"
Others weren't as surprised by the deal.
Tim Kittilsby, 49, always believed Ichiro would be traded to the Yankees to finish out his career, transitioning from one of the worst teams in baseball to one of the best. Going into Monday's game, the Yankees' 57-38 record was the best in the major leagues.
"I think it's a natural progression, a natural way to end his career," Kittilsby said.
Despite the trade, Ichiro gear was not marked down at the team store, nor in the apparel stands on the Safeco Field concourse.
Erik Spring, 25, was more surprised that he couldn't grab a discounted jersey than he was about the trade. Spring didn't want to see Ichiro leave Seattle, but said he understands baseball is a business.
"It's baseball, so a lot of trades happen," Spring said. "He gave 12 years of good at-bats in Seattle."
Plenty of Yankees fans were in the crowd. Seattle's Jon Bello, 26, was born and raised in the Bronx. He said it was a good trade for both teams. Bello said it will create salary-cap space for the Mariners while giving the Yankees a replacement for outfielder Brett Gardner, who will likely miss the rest of the season following arthroscopic surgery on inflamed tissue in his right elbow.
But Bello isn't going to kiss Ichiro's feet, as he thinks most Yankees fans will do.
"I'm not praising that Ichiro is on the Yankees," Bello said. "Yes, he can contribute, but he's not going to carry the team. You can carry the team in Seattle, but you're not going to the carry the New York Yankees."
Seattle fans' love for their iconic player was on display during his first at-bat, in the third inning. Ichiro stepped out of the box, took off his batting helmet, waved and bowed twice to a roaring standing ovation before facing Mariners starter Kevin Millwood.
After slapping a single to center field and stealing second base, chants of "Ich-i-ro!" rang out, and were still heard in the fourth inning, when he came to bat again. He popped out to right field in that at-bat.
"He's always been a Mariner and he'll always be a Mariner to us," Wei said.