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Pete Rose on Ichiro's hit mark: 'They are trying to make me the Hit Queen'


At 42 years old, Ichiro Suzuki is closing in on 3,000 hits in Major League Baseball. He's also four hits shy of Pete Rose's 4,256 - except Suzuki didn't play in the majors until the age of 27 - 1,278 of those hits were in Japan.

The Suzuki's chase is headline news in Japan, but hasn't registered among news outlets and baseball fans in the states.

Mark Grace, a former MLB first baseman and now an assistant hitting coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks, is among those who think Suzuki's numbers should get more attention.

"Shame on us for not making a bigger deal out of it," Grace told USA Today. "You're talking about breaking Pete Rose's record. I couldn't care less if he got some of those hits in Japan or in Antarctica. You're getting hits at high professional levels. That's huge."

Rose finds the comparisons ridiculous.

"I don't think you're going to find anybody with credibility say that Japanese baseball is equivalent to Major League Baseball," Rose said. "There are too many guys that fail here and then become househould names there. It has something to do with the caliber of the personnel.

"It sounds like in Japan they're trying to make me the Hit Queen. I'm not trying to take anything away from Ichiro, he's had a Hall of Fame career, but the next thing you know, they'll be counting his high school hits."

Ichiro debuted in 2001 for the Seattle Mariners at age 27. He was named American League MVP and Rookie of the Year the same season. He set the major league record for hits in a season in 2004 with 262.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today said Suzuki has avoided being dragged into the debate.

"I would be happy if people covered it or wrote about it, but I really would not care if it wasn't a big deal," Suzuki said. "To be quite honest, I'm just going out and doing what I do."

Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson says the HOF will celebrate Suzuki's professional total.

"It's a ridiculous amount of hits, and the fact that he did it in Japan and the major leagues has its own set of challenges from what Pete faced," Idelson said. "No matter how this country may view it, the Hall of Fame Museum will recognize (it). The fact he did it in Japan and the major leagues has its own set of challenges different from the ones that Pete faced. Acclimating to this culture is a challenge of itself."


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