Ichiro Suzuki makes home debut

NEW YORK -- Normally, new acquisitions have do to something pretty special to endear themselves to the fans in the Bronx and become "true Yankees."

Ichiro Suzuki, however, appears to be the exception to the rule.

The 38-year-old right fielder received a rousing ovation from the sellout crowd of 49,571 at Yankee Stadium prior to his first at-bat on Friday night. Earlier, he tipped his hat to the Bleacher Creatures after they chanted his name during "roll call."

The chants didn't stop there.

In his home debut, Ichiro went 1-for-4 with two runs scored out of the No. 8 spot in the batting order, and the New York Yankees defeated the Boston Red Sox, 10-3.

"Usually, I come in and the fans behind me are tough on me," said Ichiro, who played 12 seasons with the Seattle Mariners before being traded to the Yankees. "But tonight, they were great. They were awesome. They were on my side. Obviously, it was one game, but I hope it continues."

Ichiro hit the ball hard in three of his four plate appearances. He lined to center in the second, singled and scored in the fourth and lined to left in the seventh before grounding into a fielder's choice and scoring in the eighth. In four games with the Yankees, Ichiro is hitting .250 (4-for-16).

During his career, Ichiro has only played in the postseason once, with the Mariners in 2001. So playing for a franchise with championship aspirations has seemed to revitalize him.

"The impression that I have, is that, for a long time, the Yankees are groomed to win," he said. "Winning is what happens here with the Yankees, maybe one of the top organizations that expects to win. And so mentally, I feel like the players have that, and they experience it, so they're accustomed to winning."

Ichiro said playing in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry for the first time was surreal.

"In Japan, you twist your cheek to see if it's real or not. And that's really how I feel," he said.

Prior to donning the Yankee pinstripes for the first time in his major-league career, Ichiro said he already felt comfortable wearing the uniform.

"I was in Japan until 2000, and I was a huge MLB fan, so I had a lot of jerseys of teams, and I had the Yankees' uniform," Ichiro said. "Obviously, it's different, but I feel like I've worn it before because I wore it as a fan back in Japan."

He was just concerned about acknowledging the Bleacher Creatures during "roll call."

"When I was in right field in Seattle, the visiting fans, the Yankee fans, did the roll call, and I didn't realize it was the roll call, and they had to come around to me twice, and so, hopefully this time, if they do give me the roll call, then I'll be ready," he said.

Ichiro ended up acknowledging them, while avoiding potential disaster.

"For me, I wanted to take my hat off and acknowledge them, kind of bow down," Ichiro said. "But it is during play, so I was kind of worried about that, but it worked out great.

"If there was a ball hit when I'm bowing down, then those cheers are gonna turn into boos."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he was surprised at Ichiro's "sense of humor," but declined to go into specifics.

Ichiro has made 10 All-Star teams, captured 10 Gold Glove awards and won the American League MVP award in 2001. He's currently 464 hits shy of 3,000, and seems destined to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

But he's never won a World Series title, something he has a chance to do in New York.

When asked how long it's been since he had this much fun playing baseball, Ichiro responded, "a while."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.