With apologies to Cal Ripken, Ichiro Suzuki is baseball’s modern day iron man.
The 43-year-old may be the oldest position player in the majors, but he’s still an offensive weapon. The Miami Marlins outfielder hit .291 last season. Suzuki’s career MLB hit total of 3,030 is greater than any other active player, a fact that’s even more impressive when you consider he racked up 1,278 hits in Japan before coming to the MLB in 2001.
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What’s even crazier is that Suzuki says he’s not even close to hanging up his cleats. In a recent interview with the Miami Herald, Suzuki said he wants to keep playing until he’s 50. “I’m not joking when I say it,” Suzuki said.
While that sounds like an unbelievable goal, few players are fit to achieve it like Ichiro. The man’s work ethic is legendary. He usually takes just three or four days off after the season before diving back into his rigorous training routine. He hasn’t taken a real vacation since 2005, as he believes extended time away from his routine can be disastrous. “I think mentally you sometimes need a break. But for me, my body is built so that if I don’t work out, that’s when I put more stress on my body and get more tired,” Ichiro said. “If I stay on the couch all day—or even one day—I’ll be more tired doing that than going out and giving my body a workout.”
It’s hard to argue with Suzuki, given that he’s never played fewer than 143 games in a season since he entered the MLB. But what exactly does his mythical “routine” consist of?
For one, he doesn’t lift weights. Instead, Suzuki works out on specialized machines that improve his flexibility and improve blood circulation. It’s similar to yoga or pilates, but not quite.
“It’s a complex circuit that takes up to eight machines to complete and pays special attention to the scapula and pelvic areas,” the Herald wrote of Ichiro’s routine in 2015.
The machines are designed by World Wing Enterprise, a Japanese company that focuses on developing advanced training concepts. Though they look similar to traditional weight machines, the apparatuses are specially designed to increase flexibility and range of motion. Ichiro repeats the routine up to four times per day, and he says he’s been following the same program for nearly 20 years. The machines are so important to his success that the Marlins set them up in an empty shipping container during spring training, giving Ichiro his very own gym:
Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish, who’s also from Japan, recently demonstrated how one of the machines works in a YouTube video:
The results speak for themselves. Ichiro has been able to maintain his durability and speed after all these years. Another insane Ichiro story? Prior to the 2007 season, Suzuki revealed his offseason preparation included certain days when he’d climb a total of 31,284 steps. To put that in perspective, it takes 1,576 steps to get to the top of the Empire State Building.
When asked how he’s been able to be so diligent with his preparation year in and year out, Ichiro had a simple answer. “When you retire from baseball, you have until the day you die to rest,” he said. “But the way I feel, how I’m thinking, I feel like nothing can stop me from [playing until I’m 50.”
When asked what he’ll do when he finally does retire, Ichiro responded with black humor. “I think I’ll just die,” he said.