I’m a baseball fan and more importantly am a Seattle Mariners fan (so don’t expect me to quote National League player statistics). I have season tickets to the Mariners and have participated in their Fantasy Camp. Good times.
One of the cooler things about Mariner Fantasy Camp is that it is a couple weeks before spring training starts so you run into a bunch of players who show up early. When Kazuhiro Sasaki first came over from Japan he showed up during that time and I expect we were probably the first Americans who got his autograph. I was there with my 7 kids and he had a great time signing every single one of their t-shirts. He was extremely jovial and explained to the dozen or so japanese media personel who flashed a million pictures of our little event that yes, all those children were my wife and mine.
Our season tickets are in the front row in right field so he throws my kids a ball once in awhile during BP – I’m assuming because he recognizes from that earlier day. One of my baseball highlights was at the allstar game in Seattle when Kaz and Ichiro were chatting during warm-ups and looked our way. Kaz grabbed a ball, handed it to Ichiro and said a few words, then Ichiro ran over to us and threw my daughter the ball (with the real allstar logo!). Kaz gave us a wave too.
I love Ichiro, and we did have a similar but not as personal experience with him when he first came over–but Kaz still goes down as one of my favorite Mariner personalities. My family and I are extremely sad to see him go but wish him a happy future.