Ichiro is stretching and running in right field, with manager Don Wakamatsu, a trainer and translator on hand should he suddenly need mouth-to-mouth.
On the sidelines, some 30 yards away, are six Japanese photographers and a couple of television camera crews, recording each smile, wince and wink.
We forget, occasionally, that Ichiro remains a larger-than-life figure in Japan, and that a dozen Japanese writers follow him around daily – only marginally interested in what the Seattle Mariners do unless it directly impacts Ichiro.
Ichiro means a great deal to the Mariners, and to their fans. He may mean more in Japan.
Will he play tonight? He’s running harder now than he has in a week, and after missing seven games he’s getting more than a little antsy.
Wakamatsu, on ther other hand, doesn’t want to be the manager who rushed Ichiro back, saw his outfielder tear a muscle and miss getting 200 hits for the first time in his career – which is how it would be viewed if Ichiro hurt himself.
Ichiro’s now running the bases at about speed, working on his turns. Just in time, a third camera crew has arrived.
No decision yet. Smart money is on waiting another day. If Ichiro wants to play, however, he’ll play.