Miami Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds knows a thing or two about hitting home runs. The former slugger holds the Major League record with 762 career home runs, and even managed to win a Home Run Derby along the way.
As a hitter, he was the polar opposite of Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. The 42-year-old has hit 113 home runs during his 16-year career. He’s averaged just eight per season, according to Baseball-Reference.
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And yet, there remains a popular urban legend around baseball that Ichiro could lead the league in home runs if he wanted. Bonds apparently agrees with that sentiment, saying Ichiro could win the Home Run Derby.
“I think he would win. Easy. Hands down,” Bonds says in the video. That’s quite the statement considering the source.
According to Bonds, Ichiro hits the most home runs of any Marlins player during batting practice. He goes on to suggest that Ichiro hits for power during batting practice, but focuses on getting hits during games.
All of this fits in with the popular narrative surrounding Ichico. For years now, teammates and broadcasters have said similar things about the future Hall of Famer. He could hit for power if he wanted and lead the league in home runs, but he doesn’t. That’s not his game.
By now, it’s tough to discover the origin of this urban legend. It’s just something that has popped up numerous times over Ichiro’s career.
Ichiro’s prodigious batting practice power goes back all the way to 2001. Buster Olney, then of the New York Times, wrote a profile on Ichiro that mentioned the outfielder “will sometimes end batting practice by smashing drives deep into the right-field stands, the ball leaping off his bat.”
That was taken a step further the following season. In an ESPN article written by Jim Caple in 2002, Mariners reliever Norm Charlton says Ichiro could hit 50 home runs “if he wanted to.”
At that point, the sentiment just sort of followed Ichiro throughout his career. It’s likely you’ll find mentions of Ichiro’s batting practice power in nearly every profile you read on the outfielder.
It never comes directly from him, though. It’s always presented second or third hand. It’s like that one scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
Unfortunately for the fans, we’ve never had the opportunity to see if this urban legend is true. Ichiro nearly had an opportunity to prove it, but reportedly turned down an invite to participate in the Derby in 2009.
In a way, though, that’s what makes it special. Ichiro has never confirmed these wild stories, leaving fans wondering whether it’s true. Unless he has a change of heart as his career winds down, we’re going to be left with nothing but second hand stories of his legendary pop.
(BLS H/N: Deadspin)
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