The initial reaction upon seeing him back in uniform and wandering around the Mariners clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon elicited one quick and not necessarily implausible question: Did Ichiro un-retire?
The answer is no. But he is back with the Mariners in a new capacity, officially beginning his post-playing career.
The team made the announcement later after that afternoon. Officially, Ichiro will retain his job title of special assistant to the chairman, which he had last season as he worked out daily and traveled with the team in preparation for spring training and the team’s trip to Japan.
But the duties of the job will change. He will no longer be on the field taking batting practice and shagging fly balls. In his new role, per the team’s news release, “he will work as an instructor with the major league and (Class) AAA clubs, with a focus on outfield play, baserunning and, in conjunction with the hitting coaches, batting.”
The plan is for Ichiro to be at most home games, spending time with the players pregame in the batting cages. He will not be allowed to be in the dugout during games.
Manager Scott Servais had Ichiro attend the daily coaches’ meeting at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and had him attend all of the other daily pregame meetings.
Ichiro didn’t want to discuss his new role, choosing to spend his first day focusing on players and coaches.