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MLB: Super-fan behind 'Ichimeter' hit counter hopes Ichiro can return to field

Amy Franz is seen with her "Thank you, Ichiro" sign at Safeco Field in Seattle on May 6, 2018. (Mainichi)

SEATTLE -- Mariners fan Amy Franz has counted up every single one of legendary outfielder Ichiro Suzuki's major league hits on her "Ichimeter." However, the tally will rise no more, at least not this year, as Ichiro has decided not to play again in 2018.

"He's still with the team (and) he seems happy," said Franz, 46. "I'm sad that he's not playing, but I'm happy that he's happy."

Franz has been in Safeco Field's right field stands brandishing the large sign emblazoned with Ichiro's hit count since 2004. So when the 44-year-old ballplayer announced on May 3 that he would not be in the Mariners' lineup again this year and would instead become a "special assistant to the chairman," she quickly made a new sign reading "Thank you, Ichiro" in Japanese. She went down to the ballpark and took up her seat while the Mariners were doing fielding practice, and held up her new sign.

According to Franz, Ichiro came jogging over, thanked her and said in English, "I'm not done."

When Franz turned 43, Ichiro gave her a baseball with a birthday message written on it. She still remembers how surprised and happy she felt. Franz added that Ichiro is exceptionally friendly with fans, and that she has never seen another player who is so interactive.

Ichiro continues to work out with the team every day, supporting the players still on the Mariners' roster. However, "he can come back," said Franz, still and forever Ichiro's No. 1 fan.

(Japanese original by Hiromi Nagano, Los Angeles Bureau)

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