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July 12, 2008 at 9:38 PM

Ichiro turns down Home Run Derby

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This is a story I’ve written for tomorrow’s paper, but since you’ve all been so patient watching the Mariners tonight, I thought I’d give you a sneak preview of what will be in tomorrow’s Times.
Yes, Ichiro was indeed offered a chance to participate in next week’s Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium. He was approached earlier this week by MLB officials and said he’d get back to them on it. An MLB source revealed this, so I asked Ichiro — through his interpreter, Ken Barron — what was up.
“Yes, I was asked,” he confirmed to me earlier today. “But because of my hamstring, I decided not to participate.”
That would be the hamstring he felt tightness in this week. Which caused him not to start that series finale in Oakland, though he entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Kenji Johjima in the eighth.
Ichiro approached both interim GM Lee Pelekoudas and manager Jim Riggleman for their input. Both had obviously been aware of the hamstring issue. Riggleman had even tried to get Ichiro to take a day off.
“It was discussed,” Pelekoudas said. “I think it would have been nice for him to participate if he wanted to. You watch him in batting practice and he puts on a show.”
Riggleman agreed.
“I think he would have won the thing,” he said.
Riggleman said he was approached several days ago, by an interpreter for Ichiro, and asked for his opinions about him participating.
“I didn’t hear anything else about it and sort of forgot about the whole thing,” Riggleman said. “Then, I was told just the other day that he wasn’t going to do it.”
Ichiro still plans to play in the All-Star Game itself. He just won’t be answering any of those questions we’ve long had about his power and ability to belt home runs at will. We know he can do it in BP. It would have been nice to see him try on a bigger stage, in front of a huge crowd with millions watching on TV. Though he did do it in last year’s All Star game (an inside-the-parker, mind you). Remember, he’s hit 36 singles in a row. Not every singles hitter gets a shot at winning a Home Run Derby. For now, fans will have to wait another year and cross their fingers. For him to first be invited. Then, to actually accept.

Watch our video tour of Kauffman Stadium above.

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