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Suzuki sets Japanese hits record

Suzuki sets Japanese hits record
SEATTLE (AP) - Ichiro Suzuki thought Japanese star Isao Harimoto was "crazy" 14 years ago.

He thinks Harimoto's a savant now.

The eight-time All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder made good on Harimoto's premonition from long ago by breaking his hits record for Japanese players Thursday night. Suzuki's 3,086th hit came on a characteristically sharp single in the fourth inning of his Seattle Mariners' 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.

He hit a one-hop smash into right field off Joe Saunders for his 3,086th hit. Harimoto smiled and flashed a thumbs-up sign from the box seats as his record fell and Ichiro tipped his batting helmet to the cheering home crowd.

Suzuki had 1,278 hits in nine seasons with Orix of the Pacific League. The 2001 AL MVP and rookie of the year has 1,808 hits in nine seasons with Seattle.

"Mr. Harimoto, in 1995 - 14 years ago! - told me, 'The only guy who could break my record is you.' For him to have that vision of the future, for him to say that to a player that has only one year under his belt, I'm amazed," Suzuki said through his interpreter after the mark was his.

"I thought, 'What's this crazy man saying?"'

But then, while leading the Pacific League in batting average for a Japanese-record seven consecutive seasons through the 1990s, Suzuki began to set his sights on Harimoto's record - "because I am good at math, so I understand when something is far and when it's getting close," he said.

The more hits he got, the more that goal weighed on him.

"At times, I wish I wasn't so good in math," he said, smiling.

Yet the 35-year-old Suzuki said that only last year, while he was joining Hall of Famer Willie Keeler (1894-1901) as the only major leaguers with 200 hits in eight consecutive seasons, did he fully realize Harimoto might not be so crazy, after all.

Then came Wednesday, Suzuki's season debut after first career stint on the disabled list because of a bleeding ulcer. He tied Harimoto's record in theatrical, dramatic fashion, with his first grand slam in six years.

"That's pretty much Ichiro - the greatest of Ichiro," the 68-year-old Harimoto said through an interpreter about a half hour after the slam.

Showing how big a deal Suzuki breaking the record is in Japan, a television network there flew the 68-year-old Harimoto to Seattle so he could see the 35-year-old superstar do it.

Thursday's game was broadcast live back to Japan, in the late morning and early afternoon there.

Suzuki said he felt the need to get the record-breaking hit immediately.

"Mr. Harimoto was planning to go home (Friday)," Suzuki said. "If I didn't get the record today, I would have worried about what he'd do with his plane ticket. So I had that kind of pressure on me."

The ball Suzuki hit for the milestone was thrown out of play for souvenir keeping. Suzuki then came around to score the game's first run on a ground out by Adrian Beltre.

After the inning ended, Harimoto stood and bowed from behind the Mariners' dugout to acknowledge a standing ovation from Seattle's fans.

"For Mr. Harimoto to make the trip all the way here from Japan for the game, it's probably the first and last time. That has special meaning to me," Suzuki said after Harimoto arrived Wednesday.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 17, 2009

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