<
>

Oh has high praise for Ichiro

TOKYO -- The high praise for Ichiro Suzuki came from none other than Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh.

"Sometimes we forget how difficult it is to accomplish these things amid a baseball schedule which is much tougher in the U.S. than in Japan," Oh said. "It's hard to find the words to describe what he has accomplished."

Oh was among the baseball luminaries, players and fans to hail Suzuki on Monday after the Seattle Mariners outfielder became the first player in major league history with at least 200 hits in nine straight seasons.

Suzuki set the record with an infield single in the second inning of Sunday's second game against the Texas Rangers. In his second at-bat, he beat out a roller to shortstop Elvis Andrus to break a tie with Willie Keeler, who had at least 200 hits for eight consecutive seasons (1894-1901).

The mass circulation newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun printed a special edition with the headline "Ichiro breaks major league record."

It was just six months ago that the 35-year-old Suzuki delivered the winning hit to help Japan defend its title at the World Baseball Classic with a 5-3 win over South Korea. His record-breaking hit against the Rangers added to his status as Japan's greatest athlete.

"Ichiro gives everyone in Japan something to feel proud about," office worker Masahiro Koga said. "He is the ultimate professional."

Former Yomiuri Giants great Shigeo Nagashima said Suzuki's accomplishments will resonate with youngsters.

"I hope he keeps aiming to break more records to inspire young players in Japan," he said.

Suzuki left Japan in 2001 after winning seven straight batting titles for the Orix BlueWave between 1994 and 2000. In April, he collected his 3,086th career hit to break Isao Harimoto's hits record for Japanese players.

He missed eight games in August because of a calf injury and sat out eight games to begin this season following a bleeding ulcer.

"As a pitcher, it's hard for me to imagine what he's gone through," said Rakuten Eagles pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, a teammate of Suzuki's on the WBC team. "Two hundred hits in nine seasons is an incredible number and I hope he shoots for 10."