This time around, things were different, of course, as the Mariners legend was doing so as a member of the New York Yankees. It was an unsettling sight to say the least to see Ichiro in a gray No. 31 Yankees jersey. He tipped his dark blue Yankees helmet to the crowd, exposing his head of black and gray hair. His look not only matched his new duds but also was a reminder of where his career is right now.
Then, Suzuki lined a pitch up the middle for a single. He stole second base a couple of pitches later.
The sequence should serve as a reminder not only of what Ichiro once was but also what he could still be for the Yankees, even in a limited capacity.
From a strict baseball sense, the deal to acquire the Japanese legend is more of a depth move than anything else. Brett Gardner is likely out for the season with an elbow injury. Nick Swisher is battling a hip issue. Raul Ibanez is 40 years old.
Bringing in Ichiro not only gives the Yankees another sexy name picked up in late July — it more importantly addresses a need for the Bombers. Brian Cashman realized that his club was looking at a dearth of outfielders, and during a trading season that's short on bats, he went out and picked up one of the best options available.
It's important not to get too caught up in this deal, though. This isn't the Ichiro of 10 years ago. Heck, it's not even the Ichiro of two years ago, who hit .315 and led the league in hits. He's only hitting .261 with a .288 on-base percentage this year. With runners in scoring position, he's hitting just .173.
There's reason to believe that those numbers will improve in New York. For starters, there's simply not as much pressure on him to produce in New York. That may seem backwards, but with the firepower the Yankees have — Ichiro hit eighth (eighth!) on Monday night — he can settle in nicely with plenty of lineup production around him. It's a lot easier to try to make someone else beat you when you're looking at a lineup that features the likes of Brendan Ryan and Michael Saunders.
The Yankees also have 31 games left at Yankee Stadium this season. That short porch will look real nice for a hitter like Ichiro. He still has the ridiculous ability to keep his hands back and shoot balls the other way into the gap. He's not going to hit .375 with the Yankees, but there's plenty of reason to believe he'll be better in New York.
It would also be shocking if this move doesn't somehow revitalize Ichiro. He's never played in the World Series, and this may be his best chance. Don't think that's not on his mind. He's going to be treated like a king in New York, where fans will be hoping he can be the 2003 Ichiro for just a few months.
If this move doesn't jumpstart Ichiro, nothing will.
The headline "Ichiro to the Yankees" is wildly capitvating. Not many people saw this coming, and we have now paired two of the world's biggest brands in baseball. Yet the end result of this trade may not live up to the initial excitement and hype felt by fans when they first heard the news. For the Yankees and for Ichiro, though, that's fine.
It's a smart move for the Yankees. They didn't give up a lot, and in the process, they addressed a need. The Yankees needed to get better, and they did so on Monday. When you're a team in contention, that's all you can ask for this time of the year.