KOBE -- Baseball legend Ichiro Suzuki recalled the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake that struck this west Japan city where his then team was based, as he appeared as a guest at the 73rd annual newspaper convention held here on Nov. 26.
"All I could do was to cover myself with a futon. I thought I was going to die," the 47-year-old former MLB outfielder said of his experience on the morning of Jan. 17, 1995, when a magnitude 7.3 quake struck western Japan. Ichiro was living in the then Orix BlueWave's dorm in Kobe's Nishi Ward at the time of the disaster. His team went on to clinch the Pacific League championship that season. Looking back at that year, Ichiro said, "My team was very passionate about the city of Kobe."
Having retired as a player, Ichiro now serves as a special assistant to the chairman of the Seattle Mariners and instructor to the team where he played for a combined 14 seasons. He returned to Japan in March "to maintain (his) physical condition" after the team's spring training camp was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Ichiro told the audience of the convention hosted by the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association that he continues to train in Japan with a "tougher program" than the one he used when he was a professional player. He added, "I realize that I can make drastic changes (physically) depending on how I use my body."
(Japanese original by Kenichiro Fuji, Kobe Bureau)