BY John Hickey 02:12PM 03/11/2011

Ichiro waits to talk about quake, tsunami

Mariners star sits out game, waits for contact from friends and family in Japan after the devastation of 8.9 quake.

Ichiro Suzuki's mind is on his homeland in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami impacting Japan / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

PEORIA, Az. — Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki decided against speaking expansively with the  media Friday morning in the aftermath of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent series of tsunami that have devastated his homeland.

A native of Kobe, Japan, he said through his interpreter, Antony Suzuki (no relation), that he had not been able to contact his family, and didn’t have enough knowledge of the situation to make any comment.

“We don’t know yet, because cell phones and power are down,’’ said Ichiro, who wasn’t in the lineup against the Cleveland Indians Friday afternoon in Cactus League play. “There are 4 million homes without power in Tokyo. I have not got hold of my family yet.’’

The Mariners have strong ties with Japan beyond Ichiro, with the club ownership being controlled by Hiroshi Yamauchi, the former president and chairman of Nintendo of Japan.

Mariners’ CEO Howard Lincoln, who has close ties with Yamauchi and who has spent considerable time in Japan over the years, said the Mariners joined the rest of the world in extending sympathy to victims of the double tragedy.

“The Mariners and the city of Seattle have a long and close relationship with the people of Japan,’’ Lincoln said in a statement. “Particularly close to all of us here at the Mariners are the many Nintendo employees and their families in Kyoto, Tokyo and other parts of Japan and the many, many Mariners fans all across the country.

“Our thoughts and best wishes are with the families as they face this great challenge.’’

Two other members of the Mariners organization currently at spring training with the club were upset by the news from Japan. Antony Suzuki’s wife is traveling in Japan (he said she is all right) and Hide Sueyoshi, the Mariners’ director of minor league and international administration, is from Osaka. He’s been able to talk to his mother and some friends to be sure they are all right.

He has not, however, been able to reach friends in the hard-hit Sendai area. They work for the Rakuten Eagles, one of Japan’s professional baseball teams.

Sueyoshi and Ichiro lived in Japan in 1995 when the country was hit by the 6.8 magnitude earthquake near Kobe that killed almost 6,500 people, about two-thirds of them from the Kobe area.

That one struck in at 5:46 a.m.. Ichiro and his Orix Blue Whales teammates were asleep in their baseball dormitory.

“I jumped out of bed when I felt the earthquake and had an experience where I felt the possibility of death,’’ Ichiro later told ESPN The Magazine. “The fear, the crushed feeling from the long lives, the cruel spectacle of what the city I knew so intimately had become – all those things I cannot forget to this day.’’

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig also issued a tatment:

“All of us at Major League Baseball are thinking of our many dear friends and colleagues in Japan today. Major League Baseball extends its deepest condolences to all those who have been affected, and we have the families and friends of our players as well as our peers and business partners in our thoughts.

“We have been in communication with the members of our office in Tokyo.  Through our shared love of baseball for more than a century, Japan is a particularly special place to us, and we are deeply saddened by the disaster that has confronted the nation. Major League Baseball will certainly provide aid with the relief efforts in the days and weeks ahead.  We will do everything we can to help Japan.’’

Twitter: @JHickey3


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