(Reuters) - Future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki said he wanted to return the faith shown by Miami Marlins executives after they flew to Japan to convince the veteran to sign for the Florida ball club.
The 41-year-old outfielder agreed a one-year contract on Tuesday with the Marlins after his two-and-a-half year stay with the New York Yankees ended last year.
“I am humbled that they flew 18 hours to get here, this is something that just doesn’t happen,” Suzuki was quoted as saying by Kyodo News on Thursday after signing up for a 15th year in MLB.
“The club exhibited such a strong desire to sign me, and I am motivated to repay their desire. As a player, it’s something I’ve been looking for the past two years.”
Ichiro moved to Major League Baseball (MLB) with the Seattle Mariners in 2001 before joining the Yankees in 2012. He is a 10-times All Star who has stolen 487 bases and is 156 hits shy of reaching the golden mark of 3,000.
“Milestones and records are important, and to some degree the pursuit of records keeps players going, but I can say clearly that they are not the only factor,” Ichiro said.
“Playing for a championship is also big. Numbers are easy to see and people are going to talk about that, but it’s not everything for me.”
Marlins general manager Dan Jennings said Ichiro had been long ear-marked to fill the left-handed hitting fourth outfielder void at the club, who finished fourth in the National League East last year with a 77-85 record.
“Discussions began heating up (in early January),” Jennings said.
“We knew he’d never been to our new ballpark and so we sent him a new video. We really wanted him. This (coming here) was a sign of respect for who he is and what he’s done.”
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien