Instead we wanted to go all the way back to where it first started, when Ichiro, then a giddy 22-year-old, first came to America in December 1995. One of the cities he visited was Cincinnati, where he met up with MLB superstar and future teammate Ken Griffey Jr. Scroll to the 1:42 mark in the clip below, past the moment where Ichiro is sporting a Dodgers jacket, to see the whole scene play out at a restaurant. It's well worth it.
Besides the "omg" factor of these two first meeting one another, there are so many other fun takeaways. One: Ichiro is wearing a Tom and Jerry sweater (he also wore a Tom and Jerry sweater meeting Michael Jordan -- a solid getup, if there ever was one, when first meeting American sports stars). Also, look at how nervous Ichiro is! It's funny to see, since, you know, he's Ichiro. Ken Griffey Sr. telling Junior that he can learn from Ichiro's stolen base propensity is also pretty great.
Ichiro had already played four seasons in the Pacific League -- tallying 49 steals and 25 homers in '95. Griffey, 25 years old, was coming off his seventh MLB season in which he hit 17 homers during a strike-shortened campaign. He hit 40 and 45 the previous two seasons. Ichiro would enter the big leagues six years later and the two would join forces on the Mariners in 2009-10.
Happy Birthday, Ichiro! May you never retire and may Tom and Jerry sweaters rise to the forefronts of fashion once again.