No, no, no. These questions are indelicate. "We must be very, very careful not to offend him," says Konishi, "or he may cut us off completely."
In July he and Seattle closer Kazuhiro Sasaki did just that for a week, after Japanese paparazzi got in Ichiro's way as he tried to back out of his garage and one photographer tried to enter Sasaki's town house complex by bribing the gatekeeper. Now the 47 tread carefully, like a Hitchcock character through a roomful of birds. Yet their editors howl for stuff to fill their daily Ichiro spreads, so the writers report the exact time he entered the dugout. They produce charts on his at bats. When Yumiko went to one exhibition game, a Japanese writer reported that Ichiro was "roused" by her and had 21 hits in 31 batting practice pitches. Film at 11!
What torments the 47 most is that after they leave, Ichiro suddenly becomes Carrot Top. He does imitations. Yelps Snoop Dogg lyrics. Walks up to opposing Latin catchers and asks, "�Qu� pasa?" He's loved by teammates, who call him the Wizard. They wear T-shirts that read HE'LL FIND A WAY. The other day, in Baltimore, they stole his clothes, leaving him only a Hooters' waitress uniform to wear on the plane home. He vamped the whole way.
But when the Japanese reporters are around, he goes back to doing his impression of a rock. Zen koan: What is the sound of two hands typing nothing? Yet they carry on, undaunted, ever hopeful. "I know that someday I will get an interview," says Okuda. "Perhaps when he retires."
Ichiro is 27.