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Baseball: Ichiro encourages youngsters, avoids question of NPB return

Baseball star Ichiro is seen during the closing ceremony of the Ichiro Cup youth baseball tournament in Toyoyama, Aichi Prefecture, on Dec, 23, 2017. (Mainichi)

NAGOYA (Kyodo) -- Major league outfielder Ichiro Suzuki dodged a question about possibly returning to play in Nippon Professional Baseball on Saturday.

    Suzuki, who has 3,080 career major league hits, was in his hometown of Toyoyama, Aichi Prefecture, outside Nagoya to attend the closing ceremony of the Ichiro Cup youth baseball tournament.

    There, he addressed, "I want you have self-confidence, trust in yourselves, and be able to do what you have to do," Suzuki told the assembled youngsters.

    Currently without a major league job, Suzuki was asked if there was any possibility of his continuing his career in NPB.

    "When you use the word possibility, there are many things -- it means anything is possible as long as it's not zero..." he said.

    Suzuki became a free agent in November when the Miami Marlins declined their option to sign him for the 2018 season. The 44-year-old, who has stated publicly that he wants to play professionally until he is 50, is awaiting interest from another club.

    "I feel like a big dog at a pet shop that hasn't been sold. Of course, I want to play baseball next year," he said. "I, too, will do my best."

    Because every eligible player with over 3,020 career hits is now enshrined in America's Baseball Hall of Fame, Suzuki is a sure bet to eventually earn a plaque at the Cooperstown, New York, institution.

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