In the mid-’90s, Michael Jordan was arguably the most outstanding and most famous athlete in the world. During his second three-peat with the Chicago Bulls, Jordan’s popularity and influence reached unbelievable heights. Some people even referred to him as a God, and the Bulls were so popular that it felt like they were the Beatles or Rolling Stones when they went on tours. The majority of the focus at that time from the media and the fans was obviously on Jordan. He had that type of impact on people, especially those who had the opportunity to meet him, no matter who they were and what they did in their lives.
The same type of impact Jordan had on a young Japanese baseball player named Ichiro Suzuki, who had the chance to meet his idol in 1995. Ichiro was a young and up-and-coming baseball star in Japan, visiting the United States for the first time in which he had the opportunity to spend some time with an athlete he looked up to the most while growing up. At that time, basketball wasn’t the most popular sport in Japan, but everyone knew who Jordan was and what he epitomizes.
When they met, Ichiro was so star-struck he couldn’t speak and almost burst into tears after greeting Jordan. Jordan was surprised Ichiro is a baseball player and when he heard that Ichiro had over 200 hits in one season. Jordan was highly approachable and interested in Ichiro and his story, and what he plans to do while visiting the US.
So are you going to come and play in America?” Ichiro answered “when my arms get as big as yours, I’ll think about it”
Little did Jordan know at the time he is seeing the future superstar of the MLB. Ichiro would come back to the US in 2001 when he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners, where he immediately made his presence felt and surprised many with his talent and respect for the game of baseball. He would achieve historical things in his first season when he won the American League Most Valuable Player and the Rookie of the Year awards, becoming only the second player in MLB history to receive both honors in the same season. Ichiro is also the only player in major league history to have won an MVP, Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove Award, Silver Slugger Award, all while starting in the All-Star Game in the same season.
Ichiro would have a legendary 19-year-long career in MLB, breaking all types of records while playing for the Mariners, New York Yankees, and Miami Marlins. He established himself as one of the greatest if not the greatest foreign player to play in the MLB, which was Jordan’s initial dream when growing up as a young boy in North Carolina.
Even though Ichiro would become a legend in his own right, when he met Jordan as a 22-year-old baseball player from Japan, he looked like an ordinary fan or a kid in a candy store. That day, nobody knew that Jordan is in the presence of a future MLB superstar, and it’s great that he looked up to Jordan with such regard even though he wasn’t playing the same sport as Ichiro, at least not professionally. It’s just proof of the tremendous impact Jordan had globally, with fans adoring him and being in absolute awe when meeting him just like Ichiro was back in 1995 when he first met his hero.