Going on right now is Koshien, Japan’s national high school baseball championship tournament, which Ichiro led his team to 20 years ago.
After his success in junior high ball, Ichiro was recruited by the prestigious baseball program at Nagoya’s Aikodai Meiden Kōkō. He chose the school since it would put him on track to a professional career, as it had previously produced eleven Japanese major leaguers. When Ichiro joined Meiden in 1987, his dad Nobuyuki Suzuki told coach Go Nakamura, “No matter how good Ichiro is, don’t ever praise him. We have to make him spiritually strong.”
Ichiro was both Meiden’s best hitter and best pitcher when he led the team to Koshien in his senior year, 1991. Meiden proceeded to beat some larger schools, but was knocked out of the tournament before reaching the finals. Still, in his three years of high school ball, Ichiro batted .505, hit 19 home runs and stole 131 bases. He struck out only ten times in 536 at-bats, not once swinging. That fall he was drafted by the Orix BlueWave of Nippon Professional Baseball, where made his debut in 1992.
Here’s another photo.
UPDATE – 8/24/11
Here’s a video…