Growing up in Japan, Nori Aoki used to imitate Ichiro Suzuki.
“We all copied him when we were younger. He had a different leg kick than he has now. It was like a metronome,” said Aoki, recalling how Ichiro swung his front leg backward and forward on his swing. “Even though he was a skinny guy, he could hit the ball far. That was very surprising.”
Ichiro will make his regular-season China Basin debut if he plays Thursday when his Marlins open a four-game series against the Giants. His only appearance at the park was at the 2007 All-Star Game; he hit an inside-the-park homer and was named MVP.
Like Ichiro, Aoki is a lefty-hitting outfielder. Aoki said his countryman was a big influence in his career, paving the way for position players to leave Japan for the big leagues.
“When I was a kid, he was 20 years old when he came up in Japan, and I followed him then,” said Aoki, referring to the 1994 season when Ichiro emerged as a star with the Orix Blue Waves. “Even now, as a 41-year-old, he’s playing well.
“I’m not surprised at all. He’s extremely strict on himself, one of the best at taking care of his body.”