In August, Ichiro became the 30th player in MLB history to reach the 3,000-hits milestone. Prior to the Marlins-Pirates game, there was a video tribute to Ichiro, chronicling his career from Japan to the Major Leagues.
The Marlins presented Ichiro with an original collage, featuring 3,000 images of the legendary outfielder -- one image of each of his first 3,000 big league hits. Marlins president David Samson said the Plexiglass piece is 8 1/2 feet by four feet, and weighs approximately 100 pounds. There are 16 "milestone eggs" embedded throughout the piece to call attention to Ichiro's most significant hits, ranging from his first (April 2, 2001) through No. 3000 (Aug. 7 at Colorado).
"It's the most emotional I've ever seen him," Samson said. "The magnitude to him, when he saw hits one to 3,000, I think it occurred to him how many hits that is. I said, 'By the way, this is just your Major League Baseball hits. It doesn't include the hits you had in Japan or since August.'
"And then, when Mr. Oh was on the board, Ichiro had a whole different level of emotion. I thought the highlight of the whole ceremony was when he bowed to Mr. Oh."
On the large video scoreboard at Marlins Park, Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh gave a short tribute to Ichiro. Touched by the events, Ichiro bowed, and tipped his cap to the fans and players in both dugouts.
Wrapping up the pregame ceremony was the playing of the Japanese national anthem, performed on a cello, before the singing of the United States anthem.
"Everything he gets, he deserves," Mattingly said. "Ich, for me, has been an amazing player for a long time. The fact that he's still rolling along, I think whatever he gets is well deserved."
The 3,000-hits celebration was initially scheduled for late last year at Marlins Park, but was postponed because it fell on the day All-Star pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident.
On Sunday, the Marlins formally recognized Ichiro for his milestone. Ichiro's 3,034 hits entering Sunday rank 25th all-time, as he approaches Rod Carew, who is in 24th place with 3,053.
Ichiro has embraced the fourth outfielder role in his third season with the Marlins. He's found a home in Miami, and sets an example for the club by the way he goes about his business.
"Even more than his hits, it's the whole thing. Every day, he is out there throwing, working," Mattingly said. "It's just an ongoing movement. It never stops. Some guys get tired of it, or get out of their routines. But his routine, he just seems to be able to do it every day. It's just good to watch."
Ichiro has maintained he'd like to play until he is 50, and the way he prepares, he's hard to doubt. The Marlins have him signed through this year, with a club option for 2018.
"I don't know if anybody can keep up with him," Mattingly said. "Anytime you start doing something every day like that, and do it over a number of years, it's just a testimony for his love of the game. He brings a different perspective to it. I enjoy just his whole aura, of who he is, it's really cool."