(Reuters) - Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki of the Miami Marlins on Sunday became the 30th Major League Baseball player to reach the 3,000-hit milestone, an exclusive club that is considered the greatest measure of hitting excellence and physical endurance.
Ichiro, who in 2001 became the first Japanese position player, or nonpitcher, in MLB, joins Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico), Rod Carew (Panama) and Rafael Palmeiro (Cuba) as the only members of the 3,000-hit club born outside the United States.
In the midst of an improbable resurgence with the Marlins at the age of 42, Ichiro achieved the feat against the Colorado Rockies when he slugged a triple deep to rightfield in the seventh inning in Denver.
Former teammate and five-time World Series champion Derek Jeter, a 13-time All-Star who retired from Major League Baseball after the 2014 season, described Ichiro as one the game's all-time greats.
"It's an incredible accomplishment," Jeter wrote in a post on The Players' Tribune. "When you add in his 1,278 hits from Japan, where he played until he was 26, his career will be counted as one of the best of this or any other generation."
Ichiro made his MLB debut with the Seattle Mariners and went on to became only the second player to win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in the same season.
He also opened his MLB career with a record 10 consecutive seasons of more than 200 hits.
A 10-time All-Star, Ichiro won a Gold Glove Award in each of his first 10 years in the majors, and has had an American League record of seven hitting streaks of 20 or more games, with a high of 27.
He helped lead Japan to consecutive titles in the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009.
"Most of all, I've admired Ichiro because he's a model of consistency," said Jeter, who played parts of three seasons with Ichiro as members of the New York Yankees. "In my mind, the most underrated characteristic for anyone is consistency. It's something that gets overlooked until it's gone.
"I think baseball was always more than just a game to him. This was what he was born to do. And most impressive of all, the guy's 42 years old and I can't remember him ever being on the disabled list. He has taken great care of himself.
"My hat's off to Ichiro. He's a guy who comes around once in a lifetime. No one's ever seen anybody like him. And to be quite honest, we probably won't see anybody like him again."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)