As Ichiro Inches Closer to Hit #3000, Let’s Congratulate Allen Turner
It was April 2nd, 2001 when Ichiro Suzuki recorded his first Major League hit, a base hit up the middle off of Oakland Athletic pitcher T.J. Mathews. It was 15 years ago when I witnessed the first Japanese position player in MLB history record three hits, drive in two runs, and steal two bases against my beloved Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. My father and I were both in awe of Suzuki that day. That sense of wonder remains today as Suzuki sits on career hit number 2,997, three hits away from becoming the 30th member of Major League Baseball’s 3000-hit club.
Although expectations were low among analysts in the United States, when Ichiro came over to the United States in 2001, he felt the entire weight of his home country of Japan on his shoulders. The amount of pressure and stress were tremendous; Ichiro had to adjust to the American version of baseball, where pitchers were more skilled, and overcome the language barrier. Luckily, the Seattle Mariners had Allen Turner, the man who would serve as his interpreter. Turner aided Suzuki greatly during his historic rookie season in 2001, where he simultaneously won the American League MVP and Rookie of the Year. He spent time with Ichiro off of the field to help him to adjust to American culture and feel more comfortable in his new environment. He continued to do this through the 2005 season.
From 2006 to 2012, Turner left his job as an interpreter in order to help out with his family’s business. Despite that, he stayed in touch with Suzuki; they would visit each other in Japan during the offseason or Turner would attend a few Seattle Mariners games to watch his former client. In 2012, Suzuki was traded to the New York Yankees, and he asked his trusted friend and associate Turner to come with him. Turner accepted, moving his family with him to New York as well, and went with Suzuki again when he was signed by the Miami Marlins in 2015. The time they spent together off of the field has granted them with the ability to better understand one another, which has paid dividends in the workplace and allowed them to pick up where they left off when Suzuki went to the Yankees in 2012. Some of Turner’s favorite memories as an interpreter involve interpreting jokes from Suzuki that made the Japanese media laugh, and then communicating it to English and making the American media laugh.
Hence, as we reflect on the marvelous career of Ichiro Suzuki, we should also congratulate the man who has remained in the shadows while serving him, a true professional. Congratulations on your achievement Allen Turner, and good luck to you as well Ichiro Suzuki. Soon, the time will come to really celebrate; after all you only need three more.
How much of a role do you think Allen Turner has played in the success of Ichiro Suzuki? What are some ways that professional sports interpreters aid their respective athletes? Comment below!
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