In 2001 the baseball community was introduced to Ichiro Suzuki, or just Ichiro for short. While his `rookie' year performance was filled with spectacular feats, there was also some controversy too. Is he really a rookie? Did he deserve the MVP award instead of Alex Rodriguez? Why the hell does he have his first name on the back of his uniform?
Instead of the traditional last name being on the back of his uniform, Ichiro, his first name, was printed there. The story behind this begins 4 years earlier when Ichiro was playing for the Orix Blue Wave. In 1997 Ichiro was a modern day Japanese Babe Ruth. The game had never seen anyone like him, he had already won 3 batting titles (and would go on to win 4 more) and lead his team to a number of Championships. Ichiro was a superstar, but printed on the back of his jersey was Suzuki, a common last name in Japan, much like the American equivalent of Smith.
Ichiro's new manager, Ogi Akira, decided Ichiro was such a unique player that he deserved to be more then to be just another Suzuki running around of the field. So that year he had Ichiro printed on the back of his jersey. Ichiro was a little embarrassed to be singled out like this, but it seemed like a fitting tribute to him.
When Ichiro was signed by the Seattle Mariners in 2000. They brought him, along with his name (and japanese tourist dollars) to the US. This was not the first time a player had had thier first name printed on his jersey, Vida Blue and Chili Davis are just a few examples. But then again the individualizing of every player takes some of the fun out of Baseball. After all there is A-Rod, I-Rod, K-Rod; with the new influx of Japanese players into the league wouldn't it be great to have I-Suz, K-Suz, ect.