TOKYO - The magnitude of the moment — of sharing the field with the towering Ichiro Suzuki in his farewell — left Seattle Mariners teammate Yusei Kikuchi in reverential silence.
Asked what that experience meant, the Japanese rookie pitcher, who could be the next big star from Japan, paused for a full minute.
"Since spring training until now, Ichiro told us that it is a gift for him to play in Tokyo," Kikuchi finally said through a translator Thursday night. "But for me, he gave me the greatest gift that I can play with him."
Ichiro was showered with cheers and chants while taking his final bow, and the Mariners sent him out with a win by beating the Oakland Athletics 5-4 in 12 innings.
On the day Kikuchi pitched well in his big league debut, Ichiro concluded a magnificent career that lasted nearly three decades.
The 45-year-old Ichiro went 0-for-4 in the second game of the major league season. He got a chance at a storybook ending at the jammed Tokyo Dome when he came up with two outs, a runner on second base and a tie score in the eighth inning, but he grounded out.
Ichiro, whose pro career began in his homeland in 1992 when he was 18, took his spot in right field to begin the bottom of the eighth. He then was pulled to one more ovation, punctuating his walk with waves, tips of the hat and hugs as cameras flashed all around the park.
Ichiro's teammates met him outside the dugout for a proper send-off in a three-minute tribute. Kikuchi, who worked into the fifth inning, bowed to Ichiro — the 27-year-old lefty was tearing up as he buried his head into Ichiro's shoulder.
"For me it doesn't get better than tonight," Ichiro said through a translator. "Nothing can top what happened tonight for me."
Ichiro was all smiles as he greeted his teammates after the final out.
A 10-time All-Star in the majors, Ichiro got 3,089 hits over a 19-year career in the big leagues after getting 1,278 hits while starring for nine seasons in Japan. His combined total of 4,367 hits is a professional record.
Ichiro went 0-for-1 with a walk in Wednesday's opener.