Ichiro Suzuki has played at Yankee Stadium. But not like this.
Tonight, Ichiro makes his pinstriped debut in the Bronx. New Yankees often face a lot of questions about living up to expectations and dealing with the spotlight, but Ichiro answered those questions years ago.
“I think the Yankees fans know who I am,” he said. “When I first got to the big leagues, the Major Leagues, nobody knew who I was.”
Even so, Ichiro recognizes tonight’s game as a unique moment.
On playing his first home game at Yankee Stadium… “Obviously I’ve only been there on the visitor’s side, but as a visiting player, you get a lot of the fans heckling you a little bit, and I actually kind of enjoyed that. I enjoyed that with the fans. Now that I’m on the home side, I’m not sure what to expect, what the reaction will be like.”
On joining the Red Sox rivalry… “I’ve only obviously watched it on TV. I know that there’s a lot of tradition involved in that game. Just a few days ago, I wouldn’t even think about being in that situation, that I would be wearing this uniform, playing against the Red Sox. So, I don’t really know what to expect. … When I watch it, sometimes I thought it’s like a fight — not in the real sense, of them actually fighting, but really, a physical, fighting atmosphere in the game is what I felt watching on TV.”
On the first-inning roll call… “I hope the fans do call my name, but I need to get there and play to the ability where hopefully the fans will call my name. … I just got traded to the Yankees. It’s not like I’ve been here all year. So when I go to Yankee Stadium, obviously if the fans feel that way toward me, I’m grateful. But I need to prove myself, and I need to play to the level that the fans can really enjoy and really think highly of my play. I really feel like when I get there, I want to show the fans what I can do.”
Joe Girardi: “I don’t really worry about him. This guy has been a great player for a long time. He’s been the face of this (Mariners) franchise for a long time. The expectations on him have been grand for a long time, so I don’t really worry about him. … Maybe slipping into our lineup, he won’t feel all those expectations as much.”
Alex Rodriguez “Ichiro is a rock star. He loves the bright lights. We have plenty of those in New York. I think he’s going to love New York and New Yorkers are going to love him. It’s a shot in the arm for him and a huge shot in the arm for us. Overall it’s just an awesome move by our front office. That’s one of the great perks of playing for this organization.”
Derek Jeter: “He’s someone I’ve always admired from afar. I’ve had the opportunity to play with a lot of great players throughout the years. I’m looking forward to playing with him. … Sometimes a change of scenery helps. Sometimes you get a little extra energy going to another situation, so hopefully that’s the case.”
Associated Press photos