I was toying around SI.com a little while ago when I stumbled upon this page, which shows Ichiro on the cover of the May 28, 2001 Sports Illustrated. I actually wrote that pieceâ€”it was my first cover, a huge deal for me at the time.
It was one of my more unique MLB reporting experiences. Flew out to Seattle, had a couple of days to report the piece before it was due. I remember several players were moderately annoyed by all the attention Ichiro was receiving (he was a rookie at the time; receiving the ol’ Fernando Mania! treatment). Jay Buhner, a nice guy who didn’t seem to mind, nicknamed him “EEchie-Balls,” which seemed sorta funny, in a clubhouse humor way. I interviewed Lou Piniella about Ichiro, and did so standing in his bathroom, watching him simultaneously speak with me, smoke a cigarette, take a piss and eat a hoagie. I also sat down with Ryan Franklin, at the time a young reliever with the club. We were chatting, nothing too serious, when Arthur Lee Rhodes, middle man, glared at me from across the room. “You!” he screamed.
“Yeah, you! Out of my chair!”
Franklin shot me an embarrassed look, and I rose. Rhodes proceeded to walk off. He didn’t even need the chairâ€”just being an ass.
As for Ichiro, blah. We spoke, but he said very little. Part of it was the language barrier, part his secretive manner. I remember he held a bat the entire time, and wore these beige sliding pants that I’d never before seen.
And that’s all there is to say about that.