I thought you’d be there until the end,
go into the Hall of Fame as a Mariner –
maybe the only Mariner. Junior left,
and A-Rod left. But I never ever
thought it possible that you would leave.
I saw your press conference,
statements delivered in Japanese,
translated into English.
And then the next thing I knew
you were a Yankee.
To say I was shocked, dismayed,
disappointed, and confused is
just to begin with the many feelings
that rose as one when I heard
from a friend – who isn’t even really
into baseball – that you’d been traded.
While I knew you could not
be traded against your will,
I couldn’t imagine your asking for a trade,
couldn’t imagine the Mariners without you,
couldn’t imagine you in pinstripes,
facing instead of leading us.
You set records with verve and style:
first Japanese position player in the big leagues,
American League MVP and Rookie of the Year
in 2001, a new season hit record in 2004,
ten seasons batting above .300,
three batting titles, ten Gold Gloves,
ten times an All-Star.
You went about your business with talent and skill,
humility and class, both on and off the baseball field.
I admired you as much for who you were
as for how you played.
For so long, you were our Ichiro, Mariner # 51.
Now the implausible has happened,
and suddenly you’re not.