By Kevin Kernan
Ichiro Suzuki and Yankees manager Joe Girardi
JUPITER, Fla. — Ichiro Suzuki is a proud man. At the age of 41, he is looking for a fresh start with a young, exciting team.
Don’t count the old man out.
A smiling Ichiro went through his first official workout with Miami on Tuesday. He is thrilled to be a Marlin, and although Ichiro will not say it, for he is much too polite and professional, he is happy to be away from Joe Girardi as his manager.
Ichiro was sometimes perplexed by the way he was used by Girardi. Hard lessons were learned in his time with the Yankees. Ichiro said he grew as a person.
“The experiences that I was able to go through,’’ a thoughtful Ichiro told The Post through interpreter Allen Turner in a hallway outside the visiting clubhouse at Roger Dean Stadium, “things that I couldn’t do anything about, a lot of things happened, and I just had to deal with it and be able to move forward.
“It was a great lesson for me to learn and I was able to go through that. If things happened that you couldn’t control and didn’t like, if you let that affect you and cut things off emotionally and mentally, you can’t do that, you’ve got to keep going.
“That was something I had to overcome.’’
Ichiro overcame it and earned another major league contract for $2 million with the Marlins, batting .284 with the Yankees last season over 359 at-bats with a .324 on-base percentage. The Marlins have treated him warmly, he said, in every way.
I asked Ichiro if he has had any recent contact with Girardi. He laughed and chided me — ever so politely — for the question.
Yes, Ichiro has moved on — along with his 4,122 hits over the course of his career in Japan and the majors. Ichiro needs 156 hits to reach 3,000 major league hits. Pete Rose is the majors all-time hit leader with 4,256.
Ichiro collected his 3,999th hit of his combined career on Aug. 20, 2013, at Yankee Stadium in the first game of a doubleheader against the Blue Jays.
Ichiro was hoping to play in that second game to reach the milestone and get the moment out of the way, but was only used as a pinch runner in that game.
“That was difficult,’’ a friend of Ichiro’s said.
Move on. Ichiro collected a single his first at-bat in the next game to reach 4,000 hits. There were other moves like the time Austin Romine, batting .138, replaced Ichiro in the order late in a game the Yankees were losing by one run, even though Ichiro was the Yankees’ hottest hitter at the time and had three hits in the game — including a home run his previous at-bat. But Ichiro moved on, saying at the time, “As a player you just have to accept it.’’
Last year, as Ichiro pointed out, he was the Yankees’ fifth outfielder, so he said he has no problem being the fourth outfielder for the Marlins’ terrific young outfield that features superstar Giancarlo Stanton, 25, Christian Yelich, 23, and Marcell Ozuna, 24.
There were times Girardi last season used minor league journeymen Zelous Wheeler and Antoan Richardson ahead of Ichiro.
Ichiro accepted the good times and bad times and found a way to continue his career.
Through it all, Ichiro deeply respects the game and the history of baseball so much that he said he will donate his personal collection to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
There is still some playing to do.
“I’m very excited,’’ Ichiro said of the Marlins, a team Stanton labeled Tuesday as a playoff team.
“Everybody is treating me like I’m really old,” Ichiro said in his press conference. “But please put me in that group of young guys. I feel young and want to be included in that group.
“I’m 41. I obviously don’t know what my role is right now. I’ll go through camp and find that out. Hopefully it won’t look like I’m using a bat as a cane.”
The Marlins are betting Ichiro will continue to find a way to swing that bat.