The Genius Batter Ichiro: The Secret Behind His 4000 Hits
The Guardian Spirit of a Pro Speaks What It Takes to Be the Best of the Best (Part 1)
August 27th 2013
Revelations of Ichiro’s Guardian Spirit
Happy Science Headquarters, Tokyo
Ichiro (Ichiro Suzuki, 39 years old) is a baseball player for the New York Yankees. Over the course of his professional career he has made a total of 4,000 hits in Japan and the US. Ichiro does not often share his thoughts in the media. Yet a large number of Japanese, not only baseball fans, are curious to hear him speak his mind. For this reason, Ryuho Okawa, founder and CEO of The Happy Science Group, invited the guardian spirit of Ichiro to speak on the 27th August.
The overall theme of the conversation was “Being professional”, and the topics discussed ranged from his status as a star player through to team theory, work theory, and his thoughts about Japan. The resulting conversation was not targeted at business people or specialists, or young people in particular, but instead provides a universal message for people across a broad range of age groups.
* The footage from Ryuho Okawa’s The guardian spirit of Ichiro Suzuki – the man with 4,000 hits in his baseball career – talks about what it takes to become a professional can be listened to at all Happy Science branches and temples in Japan and worldwide.
He Showed No Conceit, Even in His Great Achievements
The invited guardian spirit of Ichiro (Hereafter “Ichiro G.S.”) said coolly, “It is only 4,000 hits. (If you want to compliment me) Say my praises when I have hit 10,000. There would be no hope for mankind if I were to boast of my efforts after an achievement of this level.” He did not show pride in his achievement, even after becoming the third highest hitter in the history of American Major League Baseball. His personal appraisal clearly differed from the assessment of others.
The unquestionable genius of Ichiro cannot be denied, however in his time at Aichi Institute of Technology Meiden High School, both in the summer of his second year and the spring of his third year, his team reached the Koshien national tournament only to be eliminated in their first games. After graduating high school, his road to the elite level of competition was not smooth, being drafted in the fourth round to the Orix Buffaloes, and having his position changed from pitcher to fielder.
However, in his third year in the team, in 1994, his hitting form had become widely renowned, and was even coined as “Pendulum form”. He also became the first player in Japanese professional baseball to reach 200 hits in one season. He was able to extend that record to 210 by the end of that same season.
In January of 1995, the following year, the Great Hanshin/Awaji Earthquake struck the region, destroying much of the city of Kobe, the home of the Orix Buffaloes. It was this devastation that motivated the “Orix Nine” to front a “Stand Tall KOBE” campaign, and bring home a win in the national league that year. For Ichiro in particular, it was a superb season, with him taking the titles of lead hitter, lead run scorer, best base stealer, highest safe hitter, and highest on-base percentage. He won what is called the “Quintuple crown”, and therefore contributed greatly to his team’s success.
He Can Be Seen as a “Truth Seeker” in His Stoic Disposition, and He Speaks to the Hearts of All Who Watch Him
Ichiro crossed over to the US in 2001. He transferred to the Seattle Mariners, and was the first Japanese person to play in the US Major League as a fielder. Until that time, the majority of Japanese players had been pitchers, such as with Hideo Nomo, formerly of the Kintetsu Buffaloes, and former Yokohama BayStars player Kazuhiro Sasaki. The number of Japanese players who could compete as fielders, with their smaller physiques, remains to be seen. Ichiro’s inclusion as a fielder even raised concerns in the Japanese and US media.
Ichiro went on to prove his skeptics wrong in his first season, by hitting 242 outright, and thus winning the hearts of American fans. In 2004, he beat the long-standing season hit record of 257 by George Sisler by five hits, extending the 84-year record to 262 hits. Ichiro’s momentum did not slow and for ten years from 2001, he continued to hit over 200 per season, further establishing his formidable presence among the world’s elite in Major League Baseball.
One significant factor in Ichiro’s ability to maintain these records is his lack of injury throughout his career. At least three hours before a match, Ichiro will enter the arena and undertake an elaborate regime of stretching ahead of the game to loosen up, and he is known to take extreme care with his body. His uncompromising attitude and stoicism, helped by his short hair and appearance like that of a truth seeker, has won the hearts of all those that watch him.
Regarding this point, Ichiro G.S. concluded that, “(If I were to compromise) That would be wasting my life. It is an embarrassment, as a human being, to merely work for as long as you are getting a paycheck, until the day you are laid off. A man who is not hard on himself will meet his downfall.”
In addition to this, he included that beneath this stoic spirituality, there is self-control, self-fulfillment, and a sense that the 1,000 eyes of his spectators are watching him at any given time.
New Opportunities Will Open Up to You If You Work Hard, Building on What Your Efforts Each Cay
Ichiro G.S. continued by saying that “Some people call me a ‘genius’, but that is just the results. I am not a genius hitter. I am able to continue to play due to not succumbing to injury, and I am constantly striving to get one more base. For that reason, I continue to train hard every day. When it comes to match day, I am not aiming to succeed by calling upon some extreme physical power, and instead treat every day as the same, playing like I practice, and finishing like I practice. That is the job I continue to do.”
This is a point that is not just important for baseball players, but for all business people to learn. So how can you implement such methods? Ichiro G.S. explained this method also, in saying, “I empty my heart as much as possible, turn into a batting machine, and do nothing but bat relentlessly. Without allowing any influence from emotions or physical fitness, I become a machine and concentrate on hitting (the ball). In the beginning it comes down to will power, but relentless training every day will allow you to find a place of self-completeness within yourself. You will be able to see the stitching on the ball, and then you will come to know where on the stitching you need to hit it for it to fly where you want. That is the amount of training I am undertaking.”
The story of Ichiro going to a nearby batting center every day with his father when he was in the third grade, to train by hitting fastballs, is very well known. That is to say that Ichiro’s genius and talent, and his ability to evoke the power to succeed in such a big role, is a result of to his day-to-day relentless effort and training.
Ichiro Suzuki (born 1973)
Ichiro is a professional baseball player (outfielder). He has played in both Japan and the U.S., and has been with the New York Yankees since 2013. Fans love him for being a great all-rounder: he has speed, has a strong throwing arm, and has developed his swing into a perfect work of art. He has set many Major League records including the record for making the most hits in a single season (262 hits), and for achieving over 200 hits per season 10 years running. On August 21st he made the 4000th hit of his combined Japanese and U.S. career.
Below is an excerpt of the spiritual messages:
Ichiro: With his Eye on the World Record
Ryuho Okawa: This August Ichiro of the New York Yankees achieved the 4000th hit of his career. Only two people have ever achieved this record: with his combined total of hits in Japan and the U.S. he is the third player ever to reach the 4000 mark.
Since moving to America Ichiro has maintained a record of over 200 hits per season for 10 years running, so no one would say that it’s unfair to include his Japanese career in his hits total.
The all-time record total number of hits is 4256; Ichiro is just over 250 hits away from breaking that record. He still has chances to play this season, and next year he will almost certainly overtake second-place record holder Ty Cobb (4191 hits). Provided that he remains uninjured and can play through to the end of the next season, he will overtake Cobb, assume second place, and be in a position to reach for the top record.
There is every chance that Japan has produced a baseball world record breaker. I think that it is just a question of one or two more years.
Unlike other baseball players, Ichiro gives off the aura of being a kind of spiritual seeker; he has an indescribable air of professionalism. He seems to be a guiding figure not only for baseball players but for all athletes, and for businesspeople and managers too.
He may also have developed considerable mental powers.
Inviting the Guardian Spirit of the Genius Batter Ichiro
Ichiro is a legendary figure, and we have already heard and seen a lot about him in print and on screen, but our organization has its own unique means of finding out about who the man really is, of getting a grasp of how he thinks.
I also aim to identify his way of thinking and ideas that may be of practical application in many ways, and that may be relevant not only to aspiring professionals in the world of baseball and beyond, but also to entrepreneurs of the future, and to people aiming for the heights of success on a global scale.
Incidentally, I predict that we will not encounter a normal man. I think we’ll discover a kind of master.
I’ll call him.
(Master Okawa joins his hands and closes his eyes)
I am calling the guardian spirit of the New York Yankees baseball player, the genius batter who has achieved 4000 hits throughout his career in Japan and the U.S.: Ichiro!
We would be very happy if, here at the Happy Science Headquarters, you would explain to us frankly the secret behind your success and the key to professionalism.
The guardian spirit of Ichiro!
The guardian spirit of Ichiro!
Please descend to the Happy Science Headquarters and tell us about the essence of work, and the secret to human life.
The guardian spirit of Ichiro!
The guardian spirit of Ichiro!
From the bottom of my heart, I beg you to come to the Happy Science Headquarters and give us guidance.
If Ichiro Had Become Conceited After Achieving His 4000th Hit, It Would Have Been the End for Him
–Thank you very much for giving us this precious chance to speak with you. It must be a busy time for you now in the middle of the baseball season.
The man himself has been interviewed many times, but today we would like to ask you, Ichiro’s guardian spirit, to explain in depth about his inner thoughts and feelings.
First of all, congratulations on making your 4000th hit!
That was an epoch-making achievement, both for Americans and Japanese, and we’re all looking forward to seeing you continue to extend that record!
Ichiro’s guardian spirit: Oh, it’s no big deal, just 4000 hits.
Yeah, you know, I’ve still got a way to go…
If I content myself with that career record everything’s over for me, I’ll be left behind in no time. I can’t afford to be conceited.
– I see. At the press conference that was held after you achieved your 4000th hit you said something really impressive: “To get those 4000 hits, I went through more than 8000 frustrating misses”.
Ichiro’s guardian spirit: I don’t know…If that “eight thousand” and “four thousand” switched places it would be all right. If I had managed to hit 8000 times, and missed just 4000, the wins would come out on top.
But getting praised for missing most of the time strikes me as odd. If we were talking about games, losing 8000 times and winning just 4000 wouldn’t be praiseworthy. And they call me a professional. That’s not a performance worthy of a professional.
–But it’s tough for a professional batter to hit more than half the time….
Ichiro’s guardian spirit: Even hitting 51% of the time would be fine. But for me if you don’t hit more often than you miss it’s equivalent to losing.
Ichiro Enters a “Wtate of Non-self” to Suppress Desire
–What kind of hit satisfies you?
Ichiro’s guardian spirit: Well, I suppose that it’s one where there is a state of non-self.
Because after all people have desire, don’t they? When a ball is coming at you and you think you can hit it, rather than be satisfied with a single you want to try for a double, or a triple, or even for a home-run!
If a player is just thinking of their own individual record, they’re obviously going to feel that kind of desire. Well, it might well look like I’m just crazy about improving my individual record. But if at the moment I swing I’m thinking I can get a triple or a homerun and aim for one, it will often turn into a borderline outfield fly ball. If the ball gets caught just one or two meters outfield it’s no good.
So even if I think I can hit the ball further I control that impulse and try to hit as close to 100 percent as possible. It’s all about that instant of self-control. That is what’s most difficult.
Ichiro’s Mindset of Improving His Own Record While Contributing to the Teams Winning Percentage
–You appear to be extremely particular about your own hits, and people have tended to see you as someone who doesn’t care too much about being a team player.
Ichiro’s guardian spirit: No, that’s not it. I think of the whole team. I think of the team and do my duty.
It’s important that there’s a star player, but what comes first is the effort to use your own batting average, or on-base percentage, to help your team win. To struggle and battle our way through as a team, to fight neck and neck to the end, to turn around a losing game: if you’re not able to make those kinds of highlights happen, you can’t make a living as a professional baseball player.
The Secret to Making It in the Major League
– You’ve had an incredible track record in the U.S. even from your first year playing over there.
– I think that in that sense you are very different from other batters. Please let us know your secret to being the best of the best.
Ichiro’s guardian spirit: Well, it’s hard to say why it works in the U.S., but basically, like I said earlier, I need to be in a state of “non-self”. It’s not a question of “the bigger the better”. Rather than just straight out victory, it’s about barely scraping through, surviving by the skin of your teeth.
He Plays in the Game as He Plays in Training, and Gets the Same Results
– You’re now 39 year old and I suppose you have indeed resisted failure because in your long career you have almost never been injured. Your name has appeared on the injury list just once, but apart from that you’ve kept playing the whole time.
The media has reported that you have some strict daily practices to keep yourself in action and injury free, but I’d like to know what kind of thought process underlies your long-running battle to scrape through and avoid obstacles.
Ichiro’s guardian spirit: Well, it’s like the way that, since my elementary school days, I would go to the batting center and keep on practicing my hit day in day out.
Well, as in the title of today’s talk, some people call me a genius, but that’s a result of hard work. I wasn’t born a genius, which is obvious if you look at the start of my career. A true genius will generally already have been recognized as such by the time they are 18 years old. That kind of genius can be lost as time goes by. Personally, I started out as a second rate player and then improved my performance from there.
Well, one important factor is that if I get less chances to play my record will definitely suffer, so I focus on playing every game I can, and on making hits every time.
There are some players who, like Ou Sadaharu, are able to hit home runs, but when they are in a slump they can’t hit at all: these are players who can afford to go through such ups and downs. In any case they’ll be able to achieve a certain number of hits in the course of the season. I mean, I think that someone who can hit 40 or 50 homeruns is a real star, but I am not that kind of genius batter. So I devote myself to staying uninjured and continuing to play; I just keep trying to hit the next ball, to get on base just one more time.
In order to do so I stick rigidly to my training regime. I don’t try to unleash some exceptional power in the game itself.
I just play the same way as I play in my daily training, and get the same results. I just go on doing my job like that, so by maintaining my form I avoid major failures.
Ichiro Hasn’t Taken a Day Off From Training Since the Third Grade of Elementary School!
Ichiro’s guardian spirit: Yes, when your tenacity runs out you’re finished.
Before I said that there’s no need to unleash exceptional power in the game: if you are image-conscious and try to show off, you can’t keep up your tenacity.
That’s why I just try to empty my mind and act like a machine.
–What do you mean by “act like a machine”?
Ichiro’s guardian spirit: The pitching machine throws out balls at me. Standing opposite it I turn into a batting machine: I do nothing but hit the ball.
Normally, if you feel hesitant or in bad condition, or if there is trouble at home or at school, those problems are going to effect your form.
For instance, you might have done badly in a school test, or there might have been an excursion or something.
Without being influenced by such things, when I enter the batter’s box and take the bat in my hands I transform myself into a machine. Over there is the pitching machine, and this here is the batting machine: I just focus on sending the balls flying.
So I guess you could say it’s a kind of mental concentration. It is a mental state that can be cultivated through training, and at first it takes will power. Just by training like that every single day, like I’ve been saying, I’ve become able to put myself into a kind of state of non-self.