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No flash in the pan

Back in 1999, I was living in a rural part of Japan, teaching English in a high school. There were a lot of rumors already that Ichiro was leaving for the Majors by that time.

In Japan, the pro teams play some of their regular season games in more remote parts of the country for fans who can't make it to the big cities. The BlueWave were going to play in Fukui Prefecture, where I lived, and another teacher won tickets to the game from a radio contest. We were lucky because our seats were pretty close to the BlueWave dugout.

We had a great view of the on-deck circle. Every time Ichiro came out to the on-deck circle, fans with cameras in the crowd would suddenly appear around us, in the aisle in front of us, on the steps next to us. Flashes would go on and on and on while Ichiro stretched and took a few swings. As soon as he would head for the batter's box, the crowd would disappear as quickly as they came. And it was a different bunch each time. It was great, and I wondered how he would do in the Majors. I never thought he would end up with the M's, but I was really excited when he did.

Daryl M., Somerville, Mass.

Irony of watching Ichiro

I am a Japanese national and have lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years. I am half-retired and currently teach at the MBA program of International University of Japan (IUJ) in Niigata. Because I go to Japan and teach in the fall and spring terms, I get to see almost all Mariners games in Japan and I love to watch Ichiro's batting, speed and strong arm. Sadly enough when I return to my home in New Jersey, I cannot see any of Mariners games unless they are nationally televised. I only get to see the highlights of Ichiro's plays on ESPN.

Many of the U.S. fans probably don't know this, but as well known as Ichiro was in Japan before he joined the Mariners, most of the Japanese fans could not see him play on TV because the games of his team, Orix BlueWave, were rarely televised nationally. (In Japan, only Tokyo Giants games are regularly televised because the half of Japanese baseball fans are Giants fans.) Orix games were only regularly televised in the Osaka area. The Japanese fans got to see Ichiro play when he played in the All-Star Games, Japan Series games or exhibition games with MLB teams or MLB All-Stars.

It is ironic that when Ichiro was playing in Japan the Japanese fans could not see him play, but now they can because Mariners games are televised. However, I, a U.S. resident, cannot see him play when I am in the U.S. because M's games are rarely shown in New Jersey.

I am really hoping that Mariners will make it to the World Series this year (no strike, please). Go Ichiro and Mariners!

John Asakawa, Westfield, N.J.

Getting an "Ichi-cation"

I teach English online and my students log in from all over the world. The classroom is live, kind of like a chat room. The students log on whenever they want to practice their English, 24 hours a day. Because of my schedule and the time zone here in Bellingham, my classroom is often filled with Japanese, Korean and Chinese students. Up until last year, I paid almost no attention to baseball, but the Japanese students started asking me "You know Ichiro?" I learned who Ichiro was in a hurry and now I say, "Ah, yes. Thank you very much for lending him to us."

Mary Helene Mele

A great ambassador

I think Ichiro is the greatest ambassador Japan could have given us. He is classy, confident, and doesn't take the spotlight from the whole team. The Mariners need players who can play together as a team. We lost a couple of All-Stars in the past few years. But we are stronger now with people like Ichiro.

Marcie, Auburn

Ichi and I go way back

I was lucky enough to see Ichiro play in Japan back in 1995. It was the home opener for the Nippon Ham Fighters at the "Big Egg" in Tokyo. They were playing Orix and my friend Dan S. and I went to the game specifically to see Ichiro play. He had exploded on the scene the previous year (1994), his first full season, by hitting .384 and getting 210 hits.

Dan and I planted ourselves in the Orix rooting section, and waited with completely unconcealed anticipation and excitement. (Note: in Japan they split the outfield seats into rooting sections for each of the teams, with each side participating in continues group cheers while your respective team was up to bat.) My friend and I were not big into the group cheers, so we just yelled whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, in English of course, so no one had any idea what we were saying. Except when we screamed "We rabu Ichiro!" ("Rabu" is Japanese for "love," not "rub.") Ichiro went 4-for-4, including a grand slam home run, a pair of his signature infield hits, and three stolen bases (including one to third base).

The two of us have been following him ever since. Next time you're in Baltimore watching the Mariners against the O's, look for me. I'll be the one in the right field corner seats, trying to lead a cheer of "We rabu Ichiro!"

Dan C., Washington, D.C.

Goin' my way?

Last November I took my fiance in to get her driver's license renewed in Bellevue. We were expecting a very dull time of waiting. As we grabbed our number and waited I spied Ichiro behind the counter in civilian clothes. "That's Ichiro," I said aloud. Other people waiting turned around and nodded as if to say "we know."

We watched in awe as Ichiro smiled and talked with DMV employees. I couldn't help but to wonder where he got that great brown leather coat with the fur-lined collar and I wondered where I could get one. Even dressed casual he looked like a superstar.

Ichiro shook hands with several employers and left the building through a back door. We noticed several people in the waiting area scamper outside to get a chance to talk with him.

As we came to the counter the gentleman that assisted us was the same that assisted Ichiro. Jokingly I said, "Why doesn't he have to wait in line?" He just smiled at me and said he may not of had to wait in line but he had to pass the tests like everyone else. "How'd he do?" I asked, not really expecting a response. "He did very well on the driving test and just passed the written." "Not bad," I said, "considering he barely speaks any English." Then suddenly I remembered I barely passed the written test on my first try and I do speak English.

Ichiro you still amaze us!

Tory and Sara A.

He makes the game exciting

I live in the Philippines. Two years ago, I don't know anything about baseball (Philippines is a basketball country). It was just too boring, having to sit down on the couch and for three hours watching all those batters and pitchers taking their time. Then, last year, Ichiro came in. One of our cable channels is the Japanese BS2 NHK, which shows almost all of the Mariners games.

Now Ichiro, that guy is exciting. Whenever he comes to the plate, it's almost automatic. And when on base, he would steal bases. I loved it. The usually boring game became exciting. Not only did I like baseball, I learned to love it. Right now, I'm the biggest baseball fan back here in the Philippines, although my knowledge of the game is still limited to the Mariners (still can't stand baseball without Ichiro).

Von C, Laguna, Philippines

Greetings from Malaysia

I am probably the only person in all of Malaysia who is an Ichiro fan, and a Mariners fan. Everyone here thinks I am crazy, because nobody understands the game, but I spent a year and a half in Japan, and developed a great love for Ichiro, and his style and grace. When he came to America, I started following him and the Mariners religiously.

Even though I can't watch the games, or hear them on radio, I wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and follow the games on the Web. I have posted links to about 200+ articles on Ichiro (many by Seattle Times writers) at the following site:
http://forums.netsports.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=9314&pagenumber=1.

J.J., Malaysia

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