Exclusive Feature on Ichiro – 2013 New York Yankees Official Yearbook

March 7, 2013 – On February 23, I conducted a lengthy interview in the Yankees dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field with Ichiro for an exclusive feature, which will be published in the 2013 New York Yankees Official Yearbook. After the interview, Yankees team photographer James Petrozzello took several portrait shots of Ichiro for the story (below).

In the interview, Ichiro was about as candid as I’ve heard him about his desire to return to the Yankees after playing in New York for the second half of the 2012 season.

“To be honest with you, if the Yankees wanted and needed me on this team, there’s no reason I wouldn’t have come back,” Ichiro said. “I wanted to be here. We have agents, and those agents have a job to do. But sometimes I think there’s no need to have negotiations. That’s how I felt about coming back here. I didn’t want anything to come in between what was most important to me, which was coming back to the Yankees. But in the end, everything worked out, and I’m glad it did.”

Ichiro, who has led the American League in hits seven of his first 12 major league seasons since coming to the United States from Japan, also spoke to me about his reverence for the tradition of the Yankees. In fact, the two-time batting champion made a special trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown this winter to learn more about the history of the Yankees.

“I really didn’t know that much about the history of the Yankees before I was traded here last year,” Ichiro said. “But on my most recent trip to Cooperstown, I wanted to learn more about it. The curators took me into a special room, which has a jersey that Babe Ruth actually wore, a bat that Babe Ruth used and one of Lou Gehrig’s gloves. I was able to touch the actual things that they used, and I was able to imagine what baseball was like back in those days. That was a very special experience.”

Ichiro also discussed a present-day Yankees legend — Derek Jeter.

“Derek went to the absolute limit that he could have gone before he got hurt last season,” Ichiro said. “He wouldn’t let anyone know that he was hurting. I’ve seen a lot of different players over my career, but I haven’t seen many guys who play the game as hard as Derek. He puts high expectations on himself, and he doesn’t let people see his weak side — when he’s playing with pain. That’s something I really admire about him.

“Let’s just say that if I was stranded out on the mountain, he’s somebody that I would want to have up there with me,” Ichiro continued. “Derek is somebody who you can count on.”

For the rest of my feature story on Ichiro’s storied career, his expectations for 2013 and the appreciation he has for the Yankees, be sure to pick up your copy of the 2013 New York Yankees Official Yearbook.

The print version of the Yearbook will be available on April 1 at Yankee Stadium or you can purchase your copy by visiting http://www.yankees.com/publications or by calling (800) GO-YANKS. The digital version of the Yearbook will also be released in early April. Visit http://www.yankees.com/publications to purchase.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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