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Ichiro, Ulcers and Stress

According to WebMD, stress does not cause ulcers but may be a contributing factor. If so, it's easy to think that Ichiro Suzuki's recent WBC experience perhaps contributed to the bleeding ulcer he was diagnosed with Friday.

The pressure of representing Japan in the WBC comes through clearly in this fascinating interview Ichiro gave to Japanese television short after the tournament. Ichiro said during his final at-bat with the series on the line, he "thought about a bunch of negative things too, like I maybe I couldn't go back to Japan in the offseason" if he failed.

You really have to read the whole thing to get a sense what he was going through. But this part – concerning his 0-for-12 slump – particularly stands out:

Ichiro: It was a moment where I felt like my heart almost broke, where it was almost broken. My eyes met with coach's. [Looks almost tearful] That was, well, it really truly hurtful for me. I felt strangely pierced [pointing at chest].

Interviewer: What did you think?

Ichiro: The fact that coach was still using me was, I thought, a message. Of course, during that game, I didn't think "please substitute someone else for me". But if the game kept going like it did and I didn't put up any results, I thought I had to be ready for that.

Interviewer: Before [the WBC] started, you used the phrase "Be ready" (kakugo). "Be ready and go for it".

Ichiro: I was ready for the fact that, if we couldn't win this tournament, I would never participate again. But from the middle, clearly, I was the reason. If we couldn't win, in this condition, I couldn't say "I want to participate" in the next tournament. I couldn't make that statement.

Reading his final comment, you get the feeling that the tournament was much more of a burden for him than anything:

Interviewer: Did you feel that, because you had overcome difficulty you had achieved something special

Ichiro: I didn't feel confidence because Japan won and in the end it was a good result. I felt confidence in the way I was until that point. And now I think there's probably nothing scarier that will come up.

Lucky for Ichiro, nobody expects diddly in Seattle this season, so the stress should be minimal.