TED KIRK / AP
M’s 1st rounder showing well in College World Series…
Ackley went 5 for 6 on Tuesday and became the CWS’ career hits leader in North Carolina’s 11-4 victory over Southern Mississippi.
“I think everybody saw today what everybody on our team and myself have seen the last three years with Dustin Ackley,” North Carolina coach Mike Fox said. “It was an unbelievable performance, and we’ve seen that before from him day in and day out. He’s one sensational player, and I’m glad the nation got to see a little bit of that today. We needed it.”
The Tar Heels (48-17) eliminated the Golden Eagles (40-26) and sent Southern Mississippi coach Corky Palmer into retirement.
Ackley, the No. 2 overall draft pick by the Mariners, has 27 hits in 14 CWS games.
Ackley doubled and hit four singles to all parts of the field. The left handed-batting first baseman, who has hits in 21 consecutive NCAA tournament games since 2007, singled to left in the third inning to break the record of 24 career hits by Stanford’s Sam Fuld (2001-03).
Kyle Seager, a third-round pick by the Mariners, homered as the Tar Heels had a CWS record-tying 23 hits.
Early on in the season, I dubbed them “Mystique and Aura”, seems the term is rather apropros…
Ichiro’s take: “Ken is a special person, a special presence.
“He’s brought a lot to the team, a new attitude, and he’s done it on and off the field, in the clubhouse and the dugout. He’s great for the team. We’re much closer together than we’ve been.
“It’s not just what he might say or do, it’s his character,” Ichiro said.
They have become more than friends. Ichiro plans to visit the Griffeys in Florida after the season, and has invited the entire Griffey clan to his home in Japan.
Their relationship, Junior said, is both unique and simple.
“Outside of baseball, making a friend takes a lot of time. In baseball, we’re all together every day. Not five days a week – every day. So things can happen more quickly,” he said.
“Here’s why we’ve become friends: trust. I don’t want anything from him, he doesn’t want anything from me, except friendship. There are no ulterior motives. I just want to be his friend. There’s no hidden agenda.
“For both of us, that can be rare.”
General manager Jack Zduriencik acknowledges signing Junior was, in part, an effort to change the clubhouse – and to make Ichiro more comfortable in it.
“Of course, it was a factor,” Zduriencik said. “We’d heard the stories about last year, and I knew the presence of Ken Griffey Jr. would give him instant respect in the clubhouse.
“Did I think he’d help Ichiro feel more a part of this club? Yeah, I did. Did I know it would click? No. But it has, and I hoped it would.”
Ichiro was 22 when he first met Griffey in 1995. Junior was already a major league star.
“The way he approached me in our first meeting is the same way he does today. He doesn’t base friendships on ability or status,” Ichiro said. “If he’d known I was ticklish back in ’95, he’d probably have jumped on me then, too. People can change over time, but he hasn’t – not since we first met in ’95.
“That’s one thing that keeps friendships alive, someone who doesn’t change.