Ichiro pitches, Matsuzaka hits in exhibition

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Daisuke Matsuzaka, left, and Ichiro Suzuki share words with the high school girls’ team members after Thursday’s game at Tokyo Dome.

Two of Japan’s greatest baseball players of all time were back in uniform and on the field.

But it was hard to tell who was the most thrilled by their appearance, the members of the opposing team made up of the country’s top high school girl players, the 16,000 in attendance at Tokyo Dome or Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka themselves.

Ichiro, 49, and Matsuzaka, 42, played on an Ichiro Select Kobe Chiben team that faced the High School Girls Select squad on Thursday in the event organized by The Yomiuri Shimbun and others.

It was the first time for Ichiro to take the field at Tokyo Dome in three years and eight months, when he played two major league season-opening games there in March 2019.

Ichiro, who starred as a perennial Gold Glove-winning outfielder and sensational leadoff hitter, took the mound in the game and batted ninth. While he did little in his trips to the plate, he went over 130 kph on the speed gun and tossed all nine innings of a 7-1 victory, throwing 130 pitches.

Former mound star Matsuzaka played shortstop and batted fourth.

“I am deeply moved to be able to return to Tokyo Dome under these circumstances,” Ichiro said. “I want to do things that will become a goal for high school girl [players in the future].”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ichiro Suzuki delivers a pitch against team of the country’s top high school girls on Thursday night at Tokyo Dome.