When you have achieved everything you ever dreamed, and you have reached heights you never thought possible, who do you thank? God? Your family? Friends? How about your dog?
Seattle Mariners Rightfielder Ichiro Suzuki is retiring from the Major League Baseball after a long, 18-year career. It was much longer than many athletes ever hope for – the average career span for an MLB player is only 5.6 years. Suzuki made his debut in the MLB in 2001, and now, at the age of 45, he’s ready to hang up his hat and take it easy.
At the press conference held to announce his retirement he talked a lot about his team, his coaches, and he thanked his wife for her support. But he had a few special words about his dog, too!
“…And I have to mention our dog Ikkyu. He’s a “shiba” spitz breed, 17 years and seven months. He’s a wobbly grandpa but I see him embracing life, and it makes me want to work hard too. I’m not joking. I didn’t expect him to be alive when I retire so this makes me emotional. I’m very grateful.”
Suzuki has loved dogs for as long as he has loved baseball. When he first signed with the Mariners and moved to Seattle, he and his wife, Yumiko, lived in an apartment where they weren’t allowed to have dogs. So his dog was left behind in Japan. He faced more than a few challenges as a foreigner in the MLB, but when asked what he felt was the most difficult thing about it, he responded,
“I really miss my dog. That’s been the hardest thing so far.”
Eventually the Suzukis were able to bring their dog to Seattle to live with them, and at first when the press asked for his name, Suzuki preferred to keep it a secret!
“I would not wish to say without first asking his permission.”
After some time, though, their dog must have agreed to share his name, because they later revealed that he is called Ikkyu.
Ikkyu was named for his parents – according to the family, the name is a mash-up of Ichiro and Yumiko. According to Suzuki, Ikkyu has been a big influence on his career. When he signed a five-year extension with the Mariners in 2007, he said it was Ikkyu who convinced him it was a good idea.
“He said, ‘Woof, woof, woof,’ which meant, ‘Stay, stay, stay.’ Of course, I listened.”
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