Tokyo Dome was packed again last night with Ichiro fans. The way the place completely lights up when he comes up to bat still sends chills down my spine. It is amazing just how much the fans love him.
On a side note, many fans stuck around until the very end, myself included, thinking that he would be called out for the hero interview at the end of the game. Instead it was Dustin Ackley. People standing around me seemed a little dumbstruck as to why Ichiro was not selected.
As for Munenori Kawasaki, people sitting near me were talking about when he might get to play, especially as the game winded down. When Brendan Ryan was taken out at second in the 10th inning and remained on the ground for a few seconds, I could hear a few exclaiming this was the perfect time to bring him in. And when Kawasaki suddenly disappeared from the dugout, I could hear people around me talking about how it might be a sign he was getting ready to play.
- Ryotaro Sugi sang the national anthem.
- Munenori Kawasaki told reporters that he started preparing himself to play around the 6th inning.
- Masanori Murakami personally invited fifty junior high school baseball players from Iwate to Wednesday night's game.
Sanspo posted the following Q&A with Ichiro.
You spoke about how this would become a very special day.
And it became just that, a very special day.
It was your first four-hit opening day game.
I feel it is a good start.
In the 11th inning, did you stop your swing after you saw Ackley taking off for second?
Of course. It was not the third strike. Over the course of the season, and I was telling Mune[nori Kawasaki] this, if you can pull off that play, you can help raise your chances to score runs. And that play was what I was referring to.
You spoke to him about during today's game?
Yes. That was probably the biggest play. Mune and I spoke about that and how he would have been down if I had swung at that pitch. Mune's face showed up in my head.
Did you need courage to lay off the pitch?
Well, he was already running so that was first priority.
And what was the message behind driving in the run after that?
More than that, the third pitch was more important. After all, it was the third pitch the bore the hit.
For your first at bat, you got a hit with the fans going crazy.
There is no way it was of small significance.
Was it difficult to prepare?
It was difficult figuring out how to use the time. It was hard figuring out what to do at which point. I also could not imagine how I was going to feel emotionally, playing in a game in Japan like this for the first time in my life. Standing up there, I felt a completely different kind of anxiety that I never felt on opening day in America. I was really nervous. It was a little scary.
At the end of the game, you pointed out to right field.
I will only get to play these two games just once in my life... I know it is going to be one of those things where if feels like it ended quickly once everything is over, so I wanted to carve something out in time. And I think the people that came out are also feeling something similar. So I felt like doing something we could all feel together.