Ichiro, What is the Meaning of Life?
I was disappointed to learn last week that the great Mariner right fielder Ichiro Suzuki had been traded to the Yankees. This is yet another instance where the Evil Empire has gone shopping, coolly wielding its fat checkbook to acquire the very best players in the game. The trade was unfortunate in its symbolism: the dynastic, free spending franchise defined by long ball goes out and acquires the quintessential small ball player. Ichiro had spent his entire Major League career with one team, a rarity in the modern age of free agency and trading deadline deals. For his 12-year tenure to be broken is a blow for all of us who hope against the prevailing trend for some long gone notion of roster consistency, for non-portable heros.
A few years ago I was lucky enough to witness one of Ichiro’s many great performances. My brother-in-law Rick and I drove down to Oakland from Sacramento to take in a weekday afternoon ball game, A’s versus the Mariners. Another friend rode BART across the Bay and met us as we enjoyed our late morning tailgate in the Coliseum parking lot. This same lot during football season is the scene of high octane tailgates occasioned by all manner of menacing costumes and elaborate portable leisurescape. Ours was a low key circle of middle aged dads on lawn chairs drinking cans of beer. The half empty lot was dotted by other circles like ours, with kids running around in between playing catch or tag. The plan was to pick up cheap, upper deck seats at the box office on our way in. Despite the over performing, statistics-based Billy Beane teams of movie fame, the A’s rarely sell out their drab, weatherworn, multipurpose stadium. At the last minute, a fourth guy, Brida, made his way over from the Financial District in San Fran. And as he walked up to our meager tailgate, he pulled out four tickets and fanned them out in front of us. We leaned in and read "MVP Row AAA." They are in the first row behind the plate—the best seats in the house. We broke into a little celebration, whooping it up and high-fiving each other. Not missing an opportunity to assign deeper meaning to happenstance, I immediately invent the notion that our bleacher purism had been rewarded by the Baseball Gods. Never mind that we were actually beneficiaries of Wall Street largesse. The tickets were unused perks typically doled out by client-schmoozing brokers.
As this inscrutable Ninja warrior stood before us, already 2-for-2 on the day, we began calling out, ‘Sensei, what is the meaning of life?’
By his fifth plate appearance, what had begun as a mock honorific had turned sincere: we were bowing down with arms outstretched, ‘Sensi, we are not worthy,’ we said.