NEW YORK — They streamed out of the dugout, surrounding Ichiro Suzuki and offering hugs and handshakes.
With a clean single through the left side in the first inning Wednesday night, he had reached 4,000 hits combined between the major leagues and Japan.
Then Suzuki tipped his cap and twice bowed to the Yankee Stadium crowd, which gave him a standing ovation.
But before the game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Suzuki joked with reporters about the way he would not reach the milestone.
“Anything I do that I get a hit with is going to be, I guess you could say, Ichiro-like,” he said through a translator. “Maybe it’s going to be a bunt single. It might be an infield hit. Maybe it’s going to be a home run.
“The only thing that I can tell you that isn’t Ichiro-like is going to be a homer to left field.”
Only two men previously had compiled 4,000: Pete Rose (4,256) and Ty Cobb (4,189), both of whom spent their entire careers in the big leagues.
But chasing Rose is not one of Suzuki’s goals.
“It’s not a number that I’m looking at,” he said. “I’m just coming to the ballpark every day seeing if I’m in the lineup. I want to keep my skills up so that I’m in the lineup, so I can perform and do what I can to contribute to this team.”
Suzuki added that his name may not belong with Rose and Cobb because they reached 4,000 in one league, not two.
The right-fielder had 2,722 hits in the majors to go along with the 1,278 he had in Japan.
Those 2,722 hits since coming to the majors in 2001 are 375 more than anyone else has during the same period. With his single, Suzuki also passed Lou Gehrig for 59th place on the all-time list.
Despite being aware that he was approaching the milestone, 4,000 was not a personal goal.
“After I got my first hit, if at that point I would have said to the media, ‘My goal is to have 4,000 hits,’ I think everybody would have called me an idiot,” he said. “But now after years and years of just getting everyday hits, I’ve come to this point.
“So what’s important is just going out there and doing what you can do every single day.”
Suzuki, 39, entered the game batting .274 with six home runs and 29 RBI. He is signed through next season after signing a two-year, $13 million deal over the winter.
“The last at-bat (Tuesday), the fans really let me know that they actually know and it made me feel good … that they’re cheering me on,” Suzuki said Tuesday.
He is a 10-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner — all with the Seattle Mariners — who led the American League in hits seven times. The 2001 AL MVP has won two batting titles.
In Japan, he was a three-time MVP, a seven-time All Star and seven-time Gold Glove winner.
“I’ve said this before: If you don’t get hits in games, you’re not playing in games,” Suzuki said. “When I had my first hit, I wasn’t thinking I was going to get 4,000 hits. So I think just the everyday getting the hits has come to this point. I really haven’t put a specific number that I was thinking; just continually doing what I do.”
Suzuki has had 10 200-hit seasons in the majors, and has led the big leagues in hits seven times.
But he hasn’t reached 200 since 2010 — the last time he hit .300 — and won’t again this season.
However he remains a big presence in the lineup, a valuable fielder in right and a respected teammate. And apparently, he has a healthy sense of humor.
About the prospect of facing Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, Suzuki joked, “I’m thinking about maybe getting up there right-handed.”