Emotional Ichiro homers in finale at Safeco

Although it could be final game at stadium for RF, he says, 'I think I'll be back'

April 19th, 2017

SEATTLE -- seemed to always come up with ways to thrill the crowd at Safeco Field. That didn't change in what might end up being his last appearance at the stadium where he began his Major League career.

On the same day that the Mariners honored their former right fielder and current Marlin with a bobblehead, an emotional Ichiro homered in his final at-bat on Wednesday, blasting an pitch over the wall in right-center field in Miami's 10-5 loss.

It was the first homer at Safeco as a visiting player for the 43-year-old Ichiro, who last went deep at the ballpark on April 18, 2012.

And despite the general belief that it will end up being his last homer there, Ichiro, who has said recently that he wouldn't mind playing until he's 50, wouldn't commit to any assumptions about it other than it was a special moment for him in a career full of them.

"I saw the ball go over the fence, and I've got to pinch myself to make sure that that really happened," Ichiro said through an interpreter. "I feel grateful that it happened. This one will be a special one to remember for a while."

He wasn't the only one who felt that way. The Marlins marveled at their teammate from the dugout.

"I was sitting on the bench when he did it, and I go, 'Of course. Of course he does that,'" Miami center fielder said. "What else would you expect?"

Mariners second baseman and third baseman made eye contact with Ichiro as he rounded the bases, more or less speechless at the bit of wizardry they had witnessed.

"I had chills for him," Seager said. "That was bigger than just this game."

The home run was Ichiro's 54th at Safeco Field, tying him with Edgar Martinez for fifth on the ballpark's all-time list, one behind both and Richie Sexson. Raul Ibanez hit 83 at Safeco; Bret Boone slugged 62.

Ichiro, who played for the Mariners from his arrival in the United States in 2001 until '12, set two Major League records while with Seattle: the single-season hits record of 262 in '04 and the most consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits (10, 2001-10).

The hits record with Seattle and Ichiro's 3,000th career Major League hit, a triple in Colorado last Aug. 7 while with the Marlins, were both honored with a "Hitstory" bobblehead on Wednesday, attracting a midweek matinee crowd of 27,147.

Ichiro legged out an infield single earlier in the game, and with fans chanting his name like in years past, Ichiro connected for his first homer and RBI of the year. The crowd gave him a standing ovation as he rounded the bases and continued to chant his name after he disappeared into the dugout.

Television cameras showed Ichiro getting emotional in the dugout while celebrating with teammates -- two days after arriving in Seattle for the first time in three years and proclaiming that Safeco will "always be home."

After the game, the man who caught the home run ball in his glove on the fly, season-ticket holder Kevin Shannon from Seattle, contacted Mariners representatives and traded Ichiro the historic ball for an autographed ball.

"I love Ichiro," Shannon said. "He's one of the greatest I've ever seen. A part of my baseball soul belongs to Ichiro."

So was it Ichiro's last game at Safeco? It seems like it, but the man himself claims to have other ideas.

"I really didn't think that way," Ichiro said. "I think I'll be back. I hope to be back."