"You don't have that much time here," Ichiro said after he made a key contribution to the American League's 7-5 victory. "Before team stretch, I went to find the time to keep my mind and body moving."
The mind, the body, and the skill all worked together on Tuesday at Comerica Park.
Ichiro entered in the top of the fourth to play center field and faced Nationals right-hander Livan Hernandez in the bottom of the frame. He worked the count to 3-0, then fouled one off before singling to right field to score Boston's Jason Varitek and Baltimore's Brian Roberts to give the AL a 5-0 lead. He finished 1-for-2.
"You don't want to come to the All-Star Game and walk," Ichiro said. "On that 3-0 pitch, I was going to swing at it if it was above my toes. You just want to come here and hit."
He moved to right field in the ninth inning.
"I had not played center field in a while," Ichiro said. "You are out there playing the game in different angles so it's really fun to be out there. ... If [the Mariners] want me there I will do it."
Ichiro's performance on Tuesday did not come as a surprise. He has impressed fans and peers alike since he first arrived in the AL in 2001. Last season, he set the record for base hits in a season with 262.
"He's one of those guys who can foul a ball off on purpose, one of the rare guys in the game who can do that," Boston pitcher Matt Clement said. "The worst thing you can do against him is walk him, because you don't want that speed on the bases. Then again, he gets 200 or something hits every year so he gets on base anyway. I just give him my best stuff. If he beats me with my best stuff, I can almost live with that."
One of the most respected hitters in both leagues, Ichiro's foes in the AL West have come to know him well. That's not necessarily a good thing.
Just ask Oakland reliever Justin Duchscherer.
"You kind of just throw and hope," Duchscherer said. "If he gets out, he gets out. You give him your best and hope that is enough to get him out."
Pitchers are not the only ones who admire the All-Star outfielder. White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik, for one, has come to appreciate one of Japan's greatest exports for his defense as much as his offense.
"He's probably one of the most exciting players in the game," Podsednik said. "Every time he gets in the box, you know he is going to do something. He's a lot of fun to watch and be on the same team with."