Ichiro shows no signs of stopping after 3,000

Ichiro shows no signs of stopping after 3,000

JUPITER, Fla. -- A new batch of novelty license plates were made after Ichiro Suzuki became the 30th player in Major League history to reach 3,000 hits. It's just part of "Ichiro Mania" that still exists in his native Japan.

Over the years, fans have recognized Ichiro in a variety of ways. Many do so with customized plates. Some sport Ichiro's No. 51 jersey. Others use 262 for his MLB single-season hits record.

With 3,000 big league hits now in the books, more vanity plates are being ordered.

To Ichiro, who turned 43 in October, all of the milestones are handled in stride. To his loyal fans, they are more reasons to celebrate his remarkable career.

"It really didn't change from any offseason," Ichiro said on Saturday through his interpreter Allen Turner. "But there are a lot of license plates that changed to the total hits that I have."

Ichiro's road to 3,000 hits was one of baseball's most-followed storylines in 2016.

Entering the season, many wondered if Ichiro would collect the necessary 65 hits to reach 3,000. He finished with 95, bumping his overall total to 3,030. Counting the 1,278 hits he recorded in nine seasons playing in Japan, Ichiro has accumulated 4,308 professional hits.

MLB doesn't recognize combined totals. But as many have noted, surpassing 4,000 hits at any professional level is a remarkable achievement.

Ichiro's 3,000th hit

Preparing for his 17th big league season, Ichiro is the Marlins' fourth outfielder, and he shows no signs of thinking about retirement.

"Moving forward, I hope that I can change more license plates and get bigger numbers," Ichiro said.

Ichiro bounced back from a disappointing 2015, when he batted .229, in his first year with the Marlins. With 3,000 hits in sight in 2016, the left-handed-hitting outfielder provided the Marlins with a big boost. He compiled a slash line of .291/.354/.376.

"The good thing about Ich is he talks about playing until he's 50," manager Don Mattingly said. "So it's not like, 'This is my last year.' He talks about wanting to keep playing. Then you know, this isn't about just trying to do something or reaching a milestone."

Mattingly on Ichiro's role

The road to 3,000 wasn't completely smooth for Ichiro. He slipped into a 3-for-26 slump when he was four hits shy of the benchmark before making history on Aug. 7 at Colorado. Off lefty Chris Rusin, Ichiro tripled off the wall in right field for No. 3,000.

"I had a lot of people come up to me and treat me different, just for the fact that 3,000 was accomplished," Ichiro said. "I kind of realized it means a lot to them. That's how I took it. More than myself, people thought that was a good accomplishment."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.