Ichiro Suzuki has been one of the biggest stars in Major League Baseball since his arrival in 2001. The Miami Marlins outfielder is on the verge of becoming the 30th player in MLB history with 3,000 hits, needing just two more to hit that milestone.

Speaking to ESPN.com’s Marly Rivera, Suzuki downplayed the significance of 3,000 hits because of where he is at in his career right now:

If you’re at the end of your career and you are limping toward that number, the goal is just to get to it. But for me, when you are part of a team, you’re out there just playing baseball, and you [just happen to] get to that number. I am not limping to that number. I am playing the game, and I happen to get to that number because that’s where I am.

This will actually be the second time Suzuki has made it to 3,000 hits, though the first time didn’t get nearly as much fanfare because it was in combination with the 1,278 hits he had in nine seasons playing in the Japan Pacific League. 

Suzuki told Rivera he’s not overwhelmed by this particular moment because of what his current job with the Marlins entails:

Obviously, I have had experiences in Japan and here regarding reaching particular numbers. But right now, I feel pressure every day because I am in a position where if you don’t perform, you don’t play. I am the fourth outfielder. I am trying to do well today so I can play tomorrow. I think it might be different if I was in the lineup every single day. But you’ve got to hit in order to play.

Playing in the National League without a designated hitter has afforded Suzuki plenty of opportunities to stay fresh. He has appeared in 86 of Miami’s 102 games, hitting a robust .335/.408/.394 with more walks (23) than strikeouts (18) in 214 plate appearances entering Friday’s slate of games. 

On the subject of career hits, Suzuki recently passed Pete Rose’s record of 4,256 hits, if you combine his numbers from Japan and MLB. 

Rose did make sure to pump up his own MLB accomplishments while still saying he would applaud when Suzuki reaches 3,000 hits, per the Associated Press (h/t Fox Sports): “Absolutely because he’ll be the 30th guy to get 3,000. There’s been two get 4,000, and I’m the only one you’re going to talk to at the present time because the other one is Ty Cobb.”

Suzuki told Rivera he didn’t mind anything Rose said about his career hit total: “I was actually happy to see the Hit King get defensive. I kind of felt I was accepted. I heard that about five years ago Pete Rose did an interview, and he said that he wished that I could break that record.”

Despite being 42 years old, Suzuki said he does not see himself retiring anytime soon, noting he wants to keep playing “until I am at least 50.”

He noted there really is no difference in the way he feels today in 2016 and how he felt in 2004 when he set the MLB record for hits in a season with 262. 

Based on the numbers Suzuki has put up so far in 2016, even in a more limited role, it’s hard to argue with him. He might be one of the few athletes who could reasonably expect to keep playing until they were 50 because he has such a unique hitting ability. 

Suzuki’s prime is in the past, but his physical conditioning has allowed him to remain one of MLB’s best bench assets at this stage of his career. 

It will culminate in a proper celebration with the Marlins when Suzuki reaches 3,000 hits and eventually gets elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame five years after he does decide to retire. 

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