Why Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez-Ichiro connection is so valuable

Mar 3, 2024, 10:52 AM | Updated: Mar 4, 2024, 11:46 am

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez Ichiro Suzuki...

Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners stands with Ichiro Suzuki on April 15, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

When Julio Rodríguez made the All-Star Game and won American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2022, he became the first Seattle Mariners player to accomplish those two feats in the same season since Ichiro Suzuki 21 years prior.

That’s just the start of the connection the two icons of Mariners history have.

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While Rodríguez is only 23 years old and entering his third MLB season, he wasted no time in becoming a phenom after debuting, and is now not just the face of the Mariners franchise but also a potential face of the league.

If there’s anybody who can relate to that kind of attention and pressure, it’s Ichiro, who was a sensation from Day 1 as the first superstar hitter to successfully make the leap from his native Japan to the big leagues.

So perhaps that’s why it’s not all that rare to see Rodríguez and Ichiro together whenever they have the chance, like this week when Seattle Sports’ Justin Barnes took this video of them playing catch at the Mariners’ spring training complex in Peoria, Ariz.


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It doesn’t get much cooler than that, does it?

Barnes, who is a producer of Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, was with the show for the week at M’s spring training, and the topic of the cool connection between Ichiro and Julio came up the day after the video was shot.

Brock Huard and Mike Salk landed upon the same realization after watching the pair interact.

Huard, a former NFL quarterback who backed up Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, sees a similarity to the those two and the superstar that used to be his teammate.

“I saw Peyton’s little circle and how hard it is to penetrate and get close to somebody of that level of fame,” Huard said during Tuesday’s show. “How advantageous is it for this organization to have Ichiro? Seriously. For Julio, at that level of stardom, to go, ‘I’m a big deal, but right now I’m playing toss with a guy that’s a lot bigger deal than me, that is a worldwide icon.’ … The weight of carrying stardom and all eyes on you all the time.”

Salk had joined Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob the previous afternoon and made a similar observation, with the example at that time being John Elway, another legendary quarterback who Dave Wyman played with both in college at Stanford and then with the NFL’s Denver Broncos.

“I had this exact conversation with Wyman and Bob yesterday. I mean, almost word for word,” Salk relayed. “Julio last year had to sort of learn about, as you said, kind of shrinking the circle, and I think he is gonna start to keep people at more of an arm’s length, and you know that was gonna happen. … So who’s he out there with? Ichiro. The only person here who truly understands what that’s like. Just like I asked you yesterday about being around Peyton, I asked Dave about being around Elway. At some point, they can’t be like everybody.”

You can hear the full conversation in the last segment of the podcast below, as well as Brock and Salk’s interview with Julio Rodríguez himself from Thursday at this link.

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Why Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez-Ichiro connection is so valuable