Even before the doors opened at Safeco Field for the Mariners third game in their series against the Marlins, Seattle fans were lining up outside and ready to cheer on a player from the opposing team – Ichiro.
The first 20,000 fans rushed in to snap up a specially designed Ichiro bobblehead doll.
Ichiro Suzuki may be an outfielder with the Miami Marlins, but he spent most of his time – 12 seasons – in a Seattle Mariners uniform.
"He is a huge and important part of Mariners history," said Mariners spokesperson Rebecca Hale. "Ichiro is a first-ballot Hall of Famer who was in his prime in Seattle. Even though he's with another team now, we felt it was important to pay tribute to his greatest achievements."
The bobblehead that the M's handed out had two figures: one with Ichiro in the Mariners uniform he wore when he broke the single-season hit record in 2004 and another of Ichiro in the Marlins uniform he wore last season, when he reached 3,000 hits.
"He's a legend," said a trio of young men, clutching their new bobbleheads, "hitting and fielding and everything."
The sentiment was repeated by fans eager to see the hometown favorite. Some were betting that he'll play until he's 50. Others were hopeful he'll ultimately retire his career in a Mariner uniform, in the way Ken Griffey Jr. did. After a decade with Seattle, Griffey Jr. played nine seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and a short stint with Chicago before returning to the Mariners and retiring.
Which brings us back to that Ichiro bobblehead. When we asked Major League Baseball if any home team had honored an opposing player in such a way they gave one example. Last year the Cincinnati Reds gave away a double bobblehead that featured a player in both a Reds and a Mariners uniform: Griffey Jr. after he was named to the Hall of Fame.