SEATTLE — When Ichiro Suzuki waved his cap in his final game as a Seattle Mariner, tens of thousands of fans at the Tokyo Dome saluted. So did the umpires.
Tripp Gibson and Mike Muchlinski live in western Washington but were assigned to the Mariners-Oakland Athletics games in Tokyo last week. Ichiro played his final game on March 21.
The gravity of the moment was not lost on the two umpires.
"We're baseball fans too," Gibson said. "You don't get into this job not being a baseball fan."
Gibson and Muchlinski were told in spring training they would be working the games in Japan and knew there would likely be an Ichiro send off.
"It was incredible in the Tokyo Dome," Muchlinski said. "I think they really took a second to really appreciate how big or how important he was to the organization. He was stoic and a true professional as always."
They also point out that the stands were packed, but only when the Mariners were on the field.
"Not only the right thing to do, but it was the perfect timing for him to get out of the game. It was awesome," Muchlinkski said.
Muchlinkski and Gibson are also working to expand the national charity UMPS Care, a non-profit to provide support for at-risk and critically ill children.