Interview with Ichiro Part 2 (Gold)
If you could trade places with anybody in the history of the game for one day who would you like to trade with and why?
(Becomes very animated)
There’s not really a certain who that comes to mind but I think I would like to become a really fat player. (Raucous laughter) Maybe not necessarily fat, but a really, really big player and the reason for that is when I see really, really big players able to perform in baseball I always think to myself how are they able to do that? Because I think to be able to be a good baseball player you have to be able to control your body and for them to have really big bodies and to perform well in this very difficult game of baseball, I am very curious.
Some other people say, ‘You are so small, how come you are able to perform on the baseball field?’ but to me it is only natural because with me I am able to control my movements and my body. For me it is the opposite. Big guys? How are you able to do it? That is a big mystery. (much laughter)
If you could change one rule or thing about Major League Baseball what would it be?
I don’t like the rule that if you write a line in the batters box, I don’t think you should be ejected for that. I would like to change that. Yellow card maybe, but no ejection. Instant red card? I don’t think that is right.
Oh come on. It is something that had to happen. It is something you had to experience.
Going back to what we were talking about I think that with my character or personality I should get thrown out at least once. Because I am not the guy that everyone thinks is the nice guy.
This leads me to something I have always wanted to ask you. When you strike out, when you walk back to the dugout, you have more attitude walking back to the dugout then you did walking out to the plate. What is that?
I think there are two different cases. One is I am taking another is if I swing and they are both different. When I take and get called out usually I am very confident in the decisions I make so when I am walking away it is my own way of kind of appealing from the person who made the call. They see my back but I am kind of appealing in that way. I am very sure that this is the Japanese way of thinking but I believe that it is more of an effective way than with words because with words I think it would create perhaps remorse a little bit if it is done in that way by the person making the call so it is my own way of appealing.
As far as swinging, of course I am not happy when I swing and strike out but I never want to look down walking back to the dugout. This has to do with when I step into the batters box I have my mental approach and this is all part of my mental approach. I prepare to go up to the at bat and after doing all that and not succeeding and walking back to the dugout looking down…I don’t think that looks very cool. And I think the fans can also appreciate it more when a person is not looking down and I don’t think they would feel good by watching a person who is mopey almost walking back. I guess it is my own, what I am striving for or my own picture of beauty perhaps, that when I am on the field I want to always be confident no matter what.
With all the preparation you put in to taking the field do you ever look around the clubhouse and see a teammate and think, if only he did this…
When I see Junior I always think he should sleep at home rather than at the clubhouse. I always think if he was able to that he could have easily hit seven hundred homeruns by now.
How do you define what we saw at the end of the last game? The celebration, you getting picked up. What did all of that mean?
It was kind of an expression of the whole 2009 season. If you think about it even though we were in third place it didn’t matter. Part of it was at that time a lot of us players didn’t know if Junior was going to come back for the 2010 season and I think the fans didn’t know that as well so I think part of it came from that but I think it was proof that we were a good team. As a team we were good. And the part of me being picked up, I was very, very surprised.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I would like to be able to play baseball in the same way I am playing now.
Can you do it?
I don’t know but if you think about it since I was twenty, that is fifteen, sixteen years ago, I haven’t changed much and now, at thirty-six years old, ten years from now honestly I don’t know what is going to happen. Only people who have experienced that can comment on that but I can say I can’t imagine myself not being able to do that.
And you won’t allow yourself to think anything but that because if you did then you couldn’t do it.
Of course. Words are a good tool. You can use them as a good tool. Sometimes if used the wrong way words can prevent your potential. By saying some things you can prevent your potential from what it could be. Besides that if you think about it, everything in baseball whether it be the stadiums or the equipment that we use or the thought people have towards baseball, everything is better now. Everything is better. But if you look at it, the length of players careers are the same. To me, if you think about it logically, everything around you is better you should be able to make your career longer as well compared to before when they didn’t have things as good. Now I live in this generation where things are better. Things that I can use. To me, I think why can’t you imagine yourself being able to do it?
How do you learn about or explore these new things that can help you become better or extend what you are now?
The information regarding those things is very abundant. If you are a major league baseball player there is information all over the place for you to incorporate. The difficult part is that there is abundant information so there is wrong or bad information out there as well so to be able to figure out which of these things fits best for me, because everyone is different, that is the hard part. That’s where it’s important to know yourself and to know your body. That’s where it is hard where players are thinking, ‘Get bigger, get bigger, get bigger,’ or ‘I want more power, power, power,’ then a lot of those players lose sight of their own bodies. But as long as a player is able to face his own body and be in tune with his own body, the risks of going out and getting things and finding things that work for themselves and finding out which one is the right one, the risk of for it is very low.
What is your favorite part of your baseball day during the season? What do you enjoy the most and some day will miss the most?
Number one is when your team wins and you get to celebrate together. I think every player will tell you that. On an individual level, I come to the ballpark and I prepare and I do everything I feel I need to do to be able to succeed. All the preparation. To be able to get a result after putting in that time, whether it be a hit, make a good defensive play, hit a homerun, steal a homerun, that moment is special. Especially because you are playing with all these expectations from other people and obligations you have to fulfill. Then to be able to fulfill those things, you practice defense, you throw, you hit all the time, after all that to be able to get a result, only players get to enjoy that moment. But in that moment the fans and the people watching on TV at home get to experience some sort of joy as well by watching that moment that only the guys out on the ball field get to enjoy, and I think as ballplayers they deserve that moment. It’s not easy. It’s very hard to get to that point where you finally get to have that moment. Perhaps because it is so hard the joy is that much greater as well.
If you could script the perfect day in the life of Ichiro what would it be?
Right off the bat, who knows what a perfect day is? I don’t know what perfect is, what a perfect day would be. I think it is the little things in everyday life that bring me the most joy. It never even crossed my mind to think what a perfect day is to me. In the same way there is no such thing to me as a perfect person either. Nobody knows that. How can you strive for it when nobody knows what perfect is? So in this way, the word perfect to me is something that is imaginary, it doesn’t exist. But I think it is the small things throughout the day whether it be I get to be playing with my dog Ikkyu or enjoying a really great meal that my wife made, it’s those things, those kind of small things that bring me the most joy and are the most special to me. It’s those things looking back that I am going to say, those were the best times.
I think that we always want things that we don’t have no matter how much we get. I think human beings are those kind of creatures and that’s why I think for humans perfect will never exist because once we get that something that we think is perfect we are going to want something else. We come here and our dream may be to become a major league baseball player but once we become a major league baseball player something is going to occur that that is not enough. There is something more than that. It may be that getting 200 hits is something you really want but once you get there, there is something else. The next thing that you want, the next thing you have to do so I believe that we are just beings that perfect does not exist for.
When I think beyond that, it is very important that even though you know that no matter what you are not going to be completely fulfilled, I think it is important that we have to continue to strive for perfection.
Strive for something that doesn’t exist?
Just because you think perfection doesn’t exist if you give up right there, it is over right there. You can’t move forward. Even though we know there is no perfection we must strive for it.
I guess one example along that thought process is let’s say there is a kid he practices baseball every day but one day he gets sick and that day he can’t practice. If he gives up there because he feels he can’t practice, that’s not good. What the important thing is, what is the best thing I can do today? What is the 100 percent I can give today? Even though I can’t go out and practice like I usually do I have to do the best I can now in this scenario.
That sheds some light on something you said when you broke the record. You emphasized that it wasn’t the achievement, it was the process. If perfection in your mind does not exist, then the process becomes that much more important.
I believe it is not the result that makes the person. It is the process that makes the person. To begin with you are not going to get results if you don’t put in the time but even if someone was able to do things with out the process I think at the end of the day that person is really left with nothing. Just the result. I don’t think they are just able to do it. Without the process they haven’t improved as a human being. I think as human beings we change through this process. My wish is that through that we become better, or for me, become better and more good, and I think that is also the most fun part of it and I think that is the most human-like part of it.