Ichiro Suzuki collects 4,257th hit, says record not an intended goal

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

SAN DIEGO --Ichiro Suzukidoubled in the ninth inning Wednesday offSan Diego Padres reliever Fernando Rodneyfor his 4,257th hit spanning theJapanese and North American major leagues, surpassing Pete Rose's record total in Major League Baseball.

Rose, the former Cincinnati Reds star, said earlier this week that he didn't consider Suzuki's totals an equal.

"It sounds like in Japan they're trying to make me the Hit Queen," Rose told USA Today Sports. "I'm not trying to take anything away from Ichiro -- he's had a Hall of Fame career -- but the next thing you know, they'll be counting his high school hits.

"I don't think you're going to find anybody with credibility say that Japanese baseball is equivalent to Major League Baseball. There are too many guys that fail here and then become household names there, like Tuffy Rhodes. How can he not do anything here and hit [a record-tying] 55 home runs [in 2001] over there? It has something to do with the caliber of personnel."

Suzuki, though, said Wednesday that setting the record wasn't a goal of his.

"Obviously, I've heard of Pete Rose's comments, and he wasn't happy about what they are saying about this record," Suzuki said. "To be honest, this wasn't something that I was a making out as a goal. It was just kind of a weird situation to be in because of the combined total."

The double was Suzuki's second hit of the game, which theMiami Marlinslost 6-3.

On his first hit, Suzuki reached on a dribbler up the first-base line in the first inning. Catcher Derek Norris made a sliding attempt to field the ball and throw it in one motion, but Suzuki had already raced past the bag. Suzuki advanced to second on Martin Prado's single and scored on Christian Yelich's RBI single.

Suzuki's second hit was a double into the right-field corner in the ninth.

"For me, it's not about the record," Suzuki said. "It's about my teammates and the fans."

Suzuki had 1,278 hits for the Orix Buffaloes in Japan's Pacific League from 1992 to 2000 and the rest with theSeattle Mariners, New York Yankees and Marlins.

The Japanese professional baseball hit record is 3,085, held by Isao Harimoto in 2,752 games.

Marlins president David Samson watched while having a sushi dinner in Germany.

"Ichiro gets a hit in the first inning, and I loudly cheer," Samson said.

The sushi chef was watching the game as well.

"He looks at the TV and says, 'Ichiro!' And the first thing he does is put down the tuna and extend his hand, and then he reaches to pull up his white coat like it's Ichiro's jersey and gets into Ichiro's batting stance," Samson said of the chef. "That to me was the most symbolic moment as it relates to Ichiro and his career.

"He transcends borders and demographics and religion and race. He does something very few people do. He does his job."

Suzuki joined the Marlins ahead of the 2015 season.

"If you could have 25 Ichiros, you would have 25 World Series rings," Samson said. "He is a true humble professional who works as hard when he's 0-for-5 as when he's 5-for-5. That skill cannot be taught. In a world where sports athletes are rarely role models, Ichiro is a true role model off and on the field."

Suzuki is batting .349 in a part-time role. He now has 2,979 MLB hits, putting him on pace to become the 30th player to reach 3,000. He will turn 43 on Oct. 22. Two players were 42 or older when they recorded No. 3,000: Cap Anson (45) and Rickey Henderson (42).

"Ichiro is a really special player, and I love to see him get this and keep his march going toward 3,000 hits," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "It says a lot about him as a player, how he prepares every day and his love for playing."

Padres manager Andy Green seconded Mattingly.

"He's special," Green said. "There are people in your life which you're privileged with competing against and you get to manage against. He's as good as there is."

Dignitaries and fans in Japan also paid tribute to Suzuki. Newspapers published special editions for the morning rush hour, and the national broadcaster led with the news.

"I think it's an amazing record," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said. "A Japanese athlete has once again made a monumental contribution, and I feel tremendous pride."

Sadaharu Oh, who drew his own debate when he passed Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs in 1977 and finished his career in Nippon Professional Baseball with 868 home runs, also had high praise for Suzuki.

"To do this at 42, he is an inspiration to baseball fans around the world," Oh said. "I look forward to following him as he continues to get more hits."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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