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July 23, 2012 at 4:23 PM

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Ichiro traded to Yankees


Ichiro warms up for his at-bat against the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday at Safeco Field, June 9, 2012.

The first time I met Ichiro was February 20, 2001 — his first day at camp with the Seattle Mariners in Peoria, Arizona. I remember it well. There are relatively few athletes I can point to where that first impression was as strong.

It was more than the hype, and Ichiro certainly came into camp with a lot of that. Or hope, at least. And I remember strongly his walking to the field from the locker room and being mobbed by dozens of Japanese media who already knew what we were about to discover: Ichiro was the real deal. It made such an impression on me that I made a photograph of all the reporters reflected in his sunglasses.


Everywhere he looks, Ichiro is trailed by Japanese media chronicling his every move at Mariner spring training camp in Peoria, Arizona February 20, 2001.

Over the years it's been a genuine pleasure to have photographed Ichiro. I remember following him to Oakland as he chased the all-time hits mark, and thinking that the American flag would be a poignant backdrop to that effort.

After a while, I took to placing a remote camera on first base — something I called my "Ichiro Cam." The reason for it: If you were photographing him at the plate, the speed he carried to first base made it difficult to switch from a long lens to something shorter. He's that incredible an athlete. And that much greater a challenge to photograph.


Ichiro had a hit Thursday, September 29, 2004, and remains one shy of the major-league record for a season.

I'm sorry to see him go. His grace and athleticism are so unique that it feels as if an era has truly passed. Those heady days — however few of them that crossed over — featuring Griffey, Rodriguez and Ichiro are now gone. And it's hard to imagine what a Mariner future without any of them looks like.

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Great article and photos, Mr. Ruiz! I bet his batting average rises 30 points now... MORE
now I have no more reason to follow the Mariners. yuk yuk you dumb suckers, supporting... MORE
SOJO MOJO!!! You gotta love those guys...... MORE