Photo of Area 51 courtesy of MLB.com’s Greg Johns.

Pitchers and catchers reported last week so Spring Training must be in full swing, right? Not really. The exhibition schedule doesn’t start until this weekend meaning players are in camp doing…something. Live BP, fielding drills, casually imbibing Scotch while operating a motor vehicle. You know usual stuff.

What is the real start of spring? Opening Day? First Grapefruit/Cactus league games? Nope. Spring isn’t official until Ichiro reports to camp and holds his annual media scrum.

The annual swoonathon generally occurs the day after Ichiro arrives at camp. Ichiro is, as a rule, the last player to show up for camp every year. His eleventh hour arrival (take that, lovers of false hustle!) leaves little time for idle chatting. By design, Ichiro coyly answers through his interpretor — while wearing sunglasses worth more than your car — on the following day, giving the Mariners’ spring an official kick-off event.

The Mariners beat writing collective breathlessly recounts every exacting detail of Ichiro’s eclectic wardrobe. “Eclectic” meaning he doesn’t dress like a middle-aged sportwriter but a Japanese millionaire. This year Ichiro went all out, as Mariners.com reporter Greg Johns describes:

Surrounded by reporters, Ichiro sat at his locker wearing skin-tight jeans rolled up to mid-calf, exposing green-striped socks and sneakers that zipped up in the back.

Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times goes into further detail:

Ichiro, by the way, had a skinny, red leather belt on. Along with the shades he was wearing indoors, the cap, the sweatshirt and the usual fashion stuff that makes Ichiro, um, Ichiro.

Not wanting to miss out on the fun, newest Mariner Jack Cust adjusted his pants to pay homage to his great teammates, much to the delight of Ichiro and everyone else in the clubhouse.

Cust was quietly sitting in his locker dressed like Ichiro. Grey tee shirt, dark jeans with big cuffs rolled to mid calf and canvas high tops. A solid effort in my opinion. In Ichiro’s? Another story.

In conclusion: Ichiro is awesome. In typical Ichiro style, he cryptically ran through questions about the Mariners chances in 2011 (slim!) and the emotions of his new manager Eric Wedge (warm & fuzzy!) Ichiro is now 37 Earth years old. Might he make changes in his game as he ages? Will he trade his BABIP-confounding ways for a more patient approach, showing off his legendary batting practice power stroke?

No matter what Ichiro chooses, we are all very lucky to have a front row seat for his incredible career. His unique personality makes him a ray of hope in a bleak, clichéd world. I honestly hope he plays forever.