Ichiro Suzuki ended his time on the baseball field in the country where his legendary career began.
The Seattle Mariners outfielder announced his retirement at the Tokyo Dome in Japan on Thursday after the team swept a two-game series against the Oakland Athletics.
An emotional Suzuki, who played a total of 28 seasons, left the field to a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd.
“I have decided that today I retire from baseball,” Suzuki said through a translator during an impromptu press conference following the game.
“For me, it doesn’t get better than tonight,” he said. “Nothing can top what happened tonight for me.”
Suzuki, a 10-time Golden Glove winner and 10-time All-Star pick, inspired emotional responses from teammates, opponents and fans when announcing his retirement ― a testament to his legendary status.
Mariners second baseman Dee Gordon had tears streaming down his face over Suzuki’s departure.
And Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, who made his MLB debut for the Mariners on Thursday, was overcome with emotion as he hugged his longtime idol.
Baseball icon Ken Griffey Jr. also embraced Suzuki during his final game.
“It was fun. It was awesome,” Griffey said, according to MLB.com. “He had a chance to play in his home country where they’ve seen him grow up. This is what baseball is about.”
Though rumors about Suzuki’s retirement swirled last year, the outfielder finished the 2018 season at the Mariners’ front office as special assistant to the chairman and didn’t rule out a return. By February, he was back in Mariners camp for spring training. He started in the series opener on Wednesday.
Suzuki said he felt he had ended his career in the right spot.
“I didn’t think I would be in this place and be able to finish the way this happened,” he said via a translator. “It’s just happiness. Of course, I thought about the fans in Seattle. But the ballpark is changing from Safeco to T-Mobile Park, so I think this is the right place to finish up my career here.”