Moore: Ichiro’s 1st pitch on Mariners opening day should be thrown from RF

Mar 9, 2020, 10:17 AM
Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki...
A year after retiring, Ichiro will throw out the first pitch for the Mariners on March 26. (AP)

You’ve probably heard the news that Ichiro will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at T-Mobile Park when the Mariners open the 2020 season against the Rangers on March 26.

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He will go to the mound and no doubt fire a 90 mph strike, and everyone will love it and give him a standing ovation and take cell-phone photos that will end up on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

But I’ve got a better idea that would make it truly memorable and unique. The Mariners should ask Ichiro to throw out the ceremonial first pitch from his old position in right field. Everyone remembers his arm, the one that helped him win seven Gold Gloves in Seattle.

And I wouldn’t have him throw it home. I’d have him throw it to third base and re-enact the play from 2001 when he threw out Oakland’s Terrence Long trying to go from first to third on a hard-hit grounder to right field.

I’d milk this page from the past for all that it’s worth. I’d ask Ramon Hernandez, the player who hit the ball to right field, to smack another hard shot to Ichiro, and have Long return as the base runner. Then I’d see if David Bell would come back as the third baseman to receive the throw and apply the tag 19 years later.

Ryan Rowland-Smith of ROOT Sports likes the idea and suggests that Ichiro first go to the mound and salute the crowd while being introduced. Then he should trot out to right field while a replay is shown of his 2001 throw with Dave Niehaus describing it as “SOMETHING OUT OF STAR WARS!” Followed by Niehaus exclaiming: “AND TERRENCE LONG WAS D.O.A!”

No one ever gets tired of listening to Niehaus’ call of that play. It started out as just your typical base hit to right field with Niehaus assuming Long would move from first to third, giving the A’s runners at the corners. Part of the fun of listening to the call is hearing Niehaus’ voice build with excitement, expecting nothing at first and then seeing one of the best defensive plays in Mariners’ history. Naturally, Niehaus nailed the call.

Shannon Drayer, Mariners insider for 710 ESPN Seattle, said there are no MLB rules stating that a ceremonial first pitch must be made from the mound or in front of the mound. So in my mind, it’s anything goes. Which is what the Rangers must have thought too. In 2014, Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriguez threw out the ceremonial first pitch from his customary position behind home plate to second base.

“I think right field to third base would be fair game for Ichiro,” Drayer said. “Do I want to see it? Sure. I also wouldn’t mind seeing him throw any of his pitches from the mound. His live BPs and coach pitch sim games have been very impressive and probably beneficial for the hitters. But right field might be an interesting choice for him as he is always the showman but also very respectful of tradition.”

Brad Adam of ROOT Sports is game to see it happen, saying: “It would be cool to see Ichiro throw from right field again. His arm is in great shape from pitching in camp.”

And Angie Mentink of ROOT Sports also liked the idea, advocating a throw to home plate, saying: “I think it would be AWESOME but what constitutes a strike from right field? Would it be a one hop throw to home or does he have to carry it in the air? He is such a pro and has been training for this daily, so while I would love to see him throw from right, I imagine he will head to the mound.”

Mentink is probably right, but why not do something different with the All-Star who was known for throwing balls from right field, not the mound?

I’m going to pursue this further next week when our show Bob, Dave and Moore is in Peoria. If I can get access, I’ll ask Ichiro himself. Even though he’s 46, I’ll bet he can still fire a bullet reminiscent of the one he threw when he was 27.

I’m hoping he’d embrace the challenge and give us the perfect capper to his Hall of Fame career.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jim Moore on Twitter.

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