Melvin reflects on his time managing Ichiro

A's skipper spent 2 years as Mariners manager during Suzuki's prime

May 4th, 2018

SEATTLE -- Oakland manager Bob Melvin called Mariners outfielder the "most committed player that I've ever had."
And Melvin should know -- he had a front-row seat to watch vintage Ichiro for two remarkable seasons in Seattle in 2003 and 2004.
Ichiro's 18-year big league career came to a pause on Thursday when the Mariners announced the Japanese superstar would transition from player to special assistant advisor within the organization for the rest of this season.
As far as beyond that, Ichiro, 44, could return to baseball next season.
"Obviously if he's on board with it, at least for the time being, it seems like the right thing to do for him. He never wants to stand in anybody's way," Melvin said before the A's 4-1 loss to the Mariners. "It is great that he is still part of this organization because he has been such a presence … in this city."
Shortly after Melvin was hired to replace Lou Piniella in November of 2002, the former Arizona bench coach made a special trip to Seattle to meet Ichiro.
The two sat down and talked for a couple of hours, striking a close-knit bond that has held true the past 15 years.
"It was really easy to talk to him," Melvin said. "It kind of developed from there."
And on game day, it was never troublesome to get Ichiro ready to play, Melvin said.
"His whole day, his whole night, and everything he thought about was about the next day's game," Melvin said. "I've often said he was the easiest guy I've ever had to manage because all you had to do was tell him what time the game was, and you knew he'd be ready and committed to go."
Ichiro arguably had his finest season in 2004 when he registered a Major League record 262 hits, batting a career-best .372. He racked up 80 multi-hit games.
Melvin said his favorite Ichiro moment came late that season when he broke George Sisler's 84-year-old single-season hits record (257) with a third-inning single against Texas.
In 18 seasons, Ichiro totaled 3,089 hits, and holds a .311 career batting average. He won 10 Gold Gloves and went to 10 All-Star Games.
"One of the great players in the history of the game, if not the greatest hitter as far as just the volume of hits worldwide," Melvin said.
Even though many of the current Oakland players have only played against Ichiro late in his career, they know the vast impact he's had on the game across the globe.
"It's definitely going to be a different game without him in it," Athletics catcher said.