Ichiro and Johjima
The Seattle Times has a fantastic article written by a freelance writer, Brad Lefton, on the relationship between Ichiro and Johjima. This goes way beyond standard beat writer fare and is probably one of the best baseball articles you’ll ever see published in the Times. Some of the interesting tidbits:
“I only had a bad impression of him,” Ichiro says, laughing heartily as he explains what he now considers a long-standing misperception. “When we played against each other in Japan, as an opponent, I found him brash and cocky. Honestly, I was upset when I heard the Mariners had signed him. I thought, ‘What?’ I didn’t think we could coexist here.”
“My image of him was that he was careless and not detail-oriented,” Ichiro says. “But when you observe his actions on the field, you realize he’s actually very detail-oriented and conscientious. A catcher needs to show sensitivity to his fielders and pay careful attention to details on the field.
There’s also a fantastic explanation of the sempai/kohai relationship that is central to Japanese culture, and predetermined the way these two were going to have to interact. It adds a real depth to this quote:
And Ichiro of Johjima, “Away from the ballpark, he’s always my kohai, that’s simply the way it is in Japanese society. But there are times at the ballpark when he’s more than just my kohai; he’s my teammate.”
Ichiro is disliked by most of the American media who follows the team around on a regular basis. Perhaps they should all spend more time with Brad Lefton and learn about why he does some of the things he does, rather than ascribing arrogance and aloofness to him because he’s not like the kids from Texas.