Today at 1PM in old Municipal Stadium in Phoenix, near the airport amidst the Papago hills beyond the left field fence, the anticipation of the first batter that will step to the plate in this season’s first spring training game will be Ichiro, facing the Oakland A’s. Nine years after playing for the Onix Blue Wave, イチロー Ichiro) began his Hall of Fame career in the Big’s for the Seattle Mariners and won ten straight Gold Gloves for his outstanding defensive performance.
His presence and demeanor on the field is as near a religious experience as can be visioned in the sport. In the ‘cathedrals of Doubleday’s game’ Ichiro is the exalted one. It begins with his warm up. Jogging casually to right field, he begins his bending exercise, with hands grasped tightly behind his back while his arms push out his chest to stretch, the process of loosening up begins. By the time the squats and bends are finished, this rubber band of a human is ready for the next process of the day.
As the lead off hitter, the ritual centers upon the bat and not the man. His precious instrument in his right hand aimed straight up toward the pitcher while his left hand slightly touches and adjusts his short shirt sleeve of his right arm as if to ask for the forgiveness on the assault he is about to take out on the ball being thrown his way, his final anointing of his stance begins with the bat and arms stretched high above his head and slowly descending into the stance that has allowed him to hit .300+ in his career, all in preparation for him to uncoil his tightly wound energetic precision of velocity. After contact, already passing his first step out of the box, his right hand gently lays his bat on the ground in an instant of spectacular speed. He is off to another journey which will take him closer to Cooperstown five years after he decides to retire from the sport.
We have never seen the likes of this man in the past. We may never see his like in the future. If you ever want an experience of perfection in a baseball player who loves the game and wants to leave it better than when he came in, make sure you get to watch him in person. He is the artist of our time painting perfection wherever he goes.
Today in Phoenix, he begins his twelfth year in the major leagues and we all are better for his presence. Play ball. 2012 season is about to begin.