Classic champs Ohtani, Ichiro visit prior to series opener

April 4th, 2023

SEATTLE -- The mutual respect between and runs deep, yet that esteem reached new heights when they met before Monday's Angels-Mariners game at T-Mobile Park for for the first time with a now shared title:

World Baseball Classic champions.

Just two weeks ago, Ohtani led Japan to the title, marking their homeland’s first since the Ichiro-led team won it all in 2009.

On Monday, Ohtani approached Ichiro along the outfield grass before the Angels opened a three-game series against the Mariners, removed his cap and bowed in front of the 10-time All-Star. Ichiro is a special assistant to the chairman for the Mariners and an instructor with the Major League and Triple-A clubs, which is why he’s regularly seen in uniform during batting practice ahead of home games. They almost always catch up when the Angels are in town.

Ohtani has quickly ascended the ranks as the best player in baseball -- and with it, the most prominent. But well before he made his Major League debut upon joining the Angels in 2018, Ichiro was the bellwether for Japanese players coming stateside. Both are AL Rookie of the Year and MVP Award winners.

"Growing up, Ichiro was for me the way that I think some kids, some people, look at me today," Ohtani says of Suzuki in a recent GQ Magazine profile. "Like I’m a different species. Larger than life. He was a superstar in Japan. He had this charisma about him.”

Ohtani is slated to become a free agent at season’s end, and the Mariners are expected to be among the many teams that will pursue him. Seattle’s front office is still overseen by president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto, as it was when the club was believed to finish runner-up to the Angels in signing him out of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan during the 2017-18 offseason.