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Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki
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Mariners honor Ichiro with Franchise Achievement Award

Ichiro accepted a Franchise Achievement Award from the Mariners on Saturday. (Getty)

Before the Mariners’ game against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday night, Ichiro was honored with the Franchise Achievement Award in a presentation on the field.

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Following a short video that highlighted his career with the Mariners, team chairman and managing partner John Stanton presented Ichiro with the award, noting his accomplishments both on and off the field – from setting the all-time hits record to donating $1 million to the Red Cross in the aftermath of the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011, to the historic accomplishment of opening the door for others from Japan to follow him.

“Whereas Ichiro remains a bridge between two cultures,” Stanton read, “Ichiro was the first Japanese position player to succeed in the United States and he opened the door to over a dozen players who followed him in the next decade. As his return to Japan with the Mariners during the March opening series, Ichiro was revered in both the US and Japan. Now therefore be it resolved that the Seattle Mariners bestow the Franchise Achievement Award to Ichiro Suzuki on Sept. 14, 2019.”

With current and former Mariners executives and Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez alongside him and the entire Mariners team, manager and staff standing behind him, Ichiro, in full uniform, accepted the award and approached the podium solo, with no interpreter by his side.

“I am so nervous,” he said. “Okay, let’s do it.”

He then turned to his teammates behind him: “Dee! Yusei! No crying tonight. No crying,” he exclaimed, referring to the tears both teammates shed in front of the Mariners dugout at the Tokyo Dome when Ichiro came out of his final game.

Here is a transcription of the rest of Ichiro’s speech:

This is a happy occasion. When I retired that night in Tokyo, I had an incomplete feeling because the great fans of Seattle could not be there. Tonight I want to express my appreciation to you for your touching support over the years. When I came to Seattle in 2001, no position player had ever come from Japan before. The one you got was 27 years old, small, skinny and unknown.

You had every reason not to accept me. However, you welcomed me with open arms and you have never stopped, even when I left and came back. I was so grateful for the chance to return in 2018 and the reason is you fans.

Thank you Seattle. I also appreciate the fans across America who supported me in New York, Miami, and even in many places as a visiting player. Baseball is truly a national pastime in America and I was so happy to play in front of the people who love and respect the game so much.

It has to be an honor to play baseball with and against some of the greatest competitors I have ever known. They inspired me to raise my game to a higher level.

Now, I have the pleasure of spending time with these young and talented players who will bring the franchise a championship.

Despite the language and culture gap, not to mention an age difference, of 20 years, I enjoy being around them because I feel their passion for the game I love is genuine. As I look back to my career, if there’s anything that gives me pride, it is that I overcame the daily challenges and I have an equal passion for each day, from the first one in 2001 to the last one in 2019. As we enter the final days of a long season, every player should remind himself what does it mean to be a professional. These last days are just as important as the first ones and all those in between. Every day you need to go about your business with the same passion. That is the greatest gift you can give to your performance and to the fans who come to enjoy this special game.

To the Seattle Mariners organization, I am forever grateful to you for giving me the chance to play the game I love in the city I have come to love. Thank you also to my family for your endless support.

Now, let’s play baseball!

Listen to the full speech in the player embedded below or download it at this link.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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