‘That guy is the Elvis of Japan’: Ichiro and the Mariners ready for season opener in Tokyo

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For only the fifth time in MLB history, the league will open its season in Tokyo, Japan.

The Mariners and the Athletics left Thursday (March 14) to play two exhibition games before taking on each other in a two-game series in Tokyo on March 20 and March 21.

Excitement was building throughout spring training, with fans and the Japanese press giving Mariners players a taste of what's to come.

"You know Ichiro's big time over there, so there are going to be a lot of cameras around," pitcher Felix Hernandez quipped.

Ichiro Suzuki and the Mariners will return to Tokyo for the second time in team history. The Japanese outfielder is one of three players still with the organization that was part of the tour in 2012.

Similar to seven years ago, the Mariners are opening the season a week before the rest of the league. And their baseball skills aren't the only thing being put to the test this spring. Players said they're trying to brush up on their Japanese language skills.

Standing next to Ichiro helps, outfielder Mallex Smith joked.

There's one phrase the team has already learned: Kaizen, which means to always find a way to get better.

The group has made it their motto.

The trip to Tokyo will serve as a perfect blend of season goals tied into an experience that will unify them.

For most players, Tokyo will be a first, but for Ichiro and pitcher Yusei Kukuchi, the trip home takes on a new meaning.

Regardless of the buss that will follow this organization overseas, the group can't wait for this once in a lifetime experience to unfold.

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