Miami Marlins’ Ichiro Suzuki Ventured Into Uncharted Territory

After colliding with Miami Marlins teammate Brandon Barnes, Ichiro had treatment in the trainer’s room for the first time in his career.

Ichiro Suzuki has done many things in his 16-year big league career. He’s won batting titles, set hitting records and made amazing throws from right field. He’s entertained hometown fans in Seattle, New York and Florida. He picked up his 3,000th hit last year and even pitched an inning the year before that. But there was one thing Ichiro had not done until yesterday—get treatment for an injury in the trainer’s room.

In his first 12 seasons after coming over from Japan to play for the Seattle Mariners, Ichiro never missed more than five games in a season. In eight of those years, he missed one game at the most. He was always in the lineup, usually leading off and playing right field. Whether he was in the on-deck circle or out in the field, he would be bending and stretching to keep his flexibility. The now 43-year-old Ichiro has played at least 143 games in every season of his career, something 27-year-old teammate Giancarlo Stanton has done twice in seven years.

Because he’s been so healthy, Ichiro never spent time in the trainer’s room for an injury. He was on the disabled list one time, for a bleeding ulcer in 2009, and that’s it . . . until yesterday. During a fielding drill for outfielders, Ichiro was in center field and Brandon Barnes was in right. They were practicing communication on fly balls. A ball was hit between them and the two outfielders converged with both calling for the ball, and they ended up colliding. Ichiro stayed on the field at first, but eventually went to the training room, which was unexplored territory for him.

Ichiro hurt his lower back and bruised his right knee in the collision, but he’ll be fine. He might need a few days off. He is 43 years old, after all. The moment was such a big deal that the trainer saved the sterile glove as a souvenir and teammates took pictures. Then they gave Barnes a hard time for injuring a legend. They cleared out his locker and removed his name tag, replacing it with a sign that read: “You’re cut! Good luck in Korea.”

Ichiro acknowledged that this was a new experience for him. He said (per the Miami Herald), “This was the first time going into a trainer’s room for me, so that was a little different. The only time I’ve gone into a trainer’s room was to grab a band-aid. So today was the longest I’ve been in the training room in my career.”

Barnes is a non-roster invitee who is new to the organization. He played for the Rockies the last three years and spent two seasons with Houston in 2012 and 2013. He felt terrible about the collision with Ichiro, saying, “That guy’s a legend. He’s been around so long. It’s tough to be the guy that sends him to the training room for the first time.” (Miami Herald)

The center fielder has priority in a communication drill like the one Ichiro and Barnes were doing but, as Ichiro said, they were calling for the ball at the same time. Barnes should have peeled off and let Ichiro take it. With all of the ribbing he got from teammates, he probably won’t make the same mistake next time.

Ichiro should heal quickly and will go into the 2017 season with 3,030 career hits. He’s 25th on the all-time list. He should pass Rod Carew (3,053 hits), Rickey Henderson (3,055 hits) and Craig Biggio (3,060 hits) this year, with Dave Winfield (3,110 hits) and Alex Rodriguez (3,115 hits) likely being out of reach. Maybe he’ll catch them in 2018.

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