Ichiro Suzuki Battling Alligators, Humidity, And Car Accidents At Spring Training

  • Joe Levine

Spring training is supposed to be a time when most baseball players are getting into shape for the new season. For Ichiro Suzuki, it’s a time when he is literally (NOTE: not literally), though not unexpectedly, fighting for his life in the waking purgatory that is Tampa, Florida.

Humidity was an expected obstacle. With New York Yankees spring training in Tampa, Ichiro knew that the Florida weather would be a new experience to contend with this spring. As a member of the Seattle Mariners, Suzuki spent his springs in the dryness of Arizona. In his first Florida spring training, he has noticed the difference – the ball doesn’t travel as far in the muggy Florida air. As a result, it can be hard to tell just how much progress a player is making as they head into the regular season. Unfortunately, this is just the first level of purgatory on Earth for our hero.

Alligators are another unpleasant reality of Florida living, which Ichiro discovered while playing golf in his first week at spring training. From the New York Times:

During his first week in the Yankees’ camp, Suzuki had to contend with a fearsome-looking 13-foot alligator on the 14th hole at a golf course here. Welcome to the Grapefruit League.

“It was right there, about 10 meters away,” a smiling Suzuki said through his interpreter, his eyebrows flashing almost mischievously. “Pretty exciting. So that’s a very big difference from Arizona.”

Suzuki and his interpreter, Alan Turner, who was his golfing partner that day, said the alligator sat motionless in front of a large water hazard near the hole, doing what gators do best. As menacing as they look, Florida alligators are said to mostly enjoy sunning themselves. Besides, Suzuki and Turner were warned by the course starter that an alligator had been spotted by earlier golfers. Sure enough, there it was on 14, a live Alligator mississippiensis specimen.

Turner informed Suzuki that alligators, although as speedy as any leadoff hitter, tend to run straight ahead, not side to side. So Suzuki felt bold enough to move toward it, before holding his ground about 20 feet away. Nervously, he shot a double bogey.

Escaping this mild inconvenience, Ichiro faced the latest level of purgatory Saturday after his SUV was totaled by an irresponsible driver. Upon leaving Steinbrenner Field Saturday, Ichiro was cut off by a woman as she tried to make a left turn across Dale Mabry Highway, causing him to ram the woman’s vehicle in his Land Rover. The woman then struck another car. Luckily, there were no injuries in the pileup.

That’s three mildly annoying instances for Suzuki in just the few short weeks he’s been stuck in Tampa. Stay tuned for more tales of Twilight Zone-esque melodrama that Ichiro is sure to experience before the MLB season begins. What could lay in store for the aging outfielder? Meth users? Bath salt abusers? Juggalos? Other items from the @_FloridaMan Twitter account? Only time will tell.

[New York Times, New York Daily News]