Ichiro Suzuki considered switching to NY Yankees

AFP , TOKYO

Wed, Nov 28, 2007 - Page 18

Ichiro Suzuki said he considered moving to the New York Yankees before deciding -- with his wife's encouragement -- to stick with the underperforming Seattle Mariners.

"I had been wavering in my mind since early spring," the Japanese baseball star admitted in an interview with Kyodo News published yesterday.

Ichiro said his friends spoke to him about options including returning to Japan, joining compatriot slugger Hideki Matsui at the Yankees or playing with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka at the Boston Red Sox.

The seven-time All-Star outfielder, who holds the Major League record for hits in a season, said he narrowed down his choice to the Yankees and the Seattle Mariners.

The 34-year-old, who was eligible to become a free agent at the end of the last season, signed a five-year contract extension worth a reported US$100 million with the Mariners in July.

"I once thought that maybe it was only the Yankees who could make up for what I would lose by leaving the Mariners and would provide satisfaction to me and others," he said.

But he said the Japanese-owned Mariners "carried much heavier weight" for him in the end.

Ichiro said he did not remember the exact moment he made the decision but it was probably when he was having dinner with his wife, Yumiko, a 41-year-old former television anchorwoman.

"I was wavering but let on an air like I wanted to play in Seattle. Yumiko sensed it and told me, `You don't want to leave here, do you?' I felt like I got encouragement," he told Kyodo.

But Ichiro made no secret of his disappointments with the Mariners, who have not gone to the playoffs since his debut year with them in 2001.

"Not only I but also Yumiko feel impatient at not being able to go to the playoffs for years," he said.

Ichiro also said he has avoided major injuries despite more than 15 years as a professional player by "not making efforts."

"What I mean by `efforts' is enduring pain. In principle I don't do it unless my body wants it," he said.