Dr. Kenichiro Mogi, host of the Japanese television program, “Secrets Of The Ultimate Professional”, tells the Seattle Times’ Brad Lefton, “Ichiro has a very fine prefrontal cortex”. To which reader Tim Cook can only reply, “What about Joe Blanton?”

What viewers saw was a program that quickly zeros in on Ichiro’s meticulously crafted daily routine of preparing for a game. It doesn’t start at the ballpark or with his equipment or anything else directly related to baseball. Rather, it begins with one of the first activities of the day for people who work at night ” lunch.
The camera discovers that Ichiro has eaten the same lunch before home games all seven years he has been in Seattle ” homemade Japanese curry from his wife Yumiko. Not variations of her recipe, but the exact same kind every single day. And on the road, he almost always opts for a cheese pizza, easy on the sauce and fluffy around the edges, if you must know.

But why must we know this? When that question is posed to Mogi, he first giggles in slight embarrassment.

“It’s very interesting from a brain science point of view,” he says as his tone becomes serious. “There are many solutions, not just one solution to a particular problem. Certainly, some athletes eat lots of different food, that’s also a possible approach. But in Ichiro’s case, he sticks to a particular style.

“We believe it has a lot to do with his baseball playing style. Ichiro has found in his particular case, it is helpful to follow the same ritual every day and that way he can really fine-tune his brain state so that he can concentrate fully on baseball. Ichiro’s way is not everybody’s way.”

Nor should Ichiro’s way be confused with superstition, because he doesn’t alter his lunchtime menu depending on the previous night’s performance. And it might not be as idiosyncratic as it first appears, either. By limiting himself to dishes he knows he enjoys, Ichiro eliminates the element of surprise. He knows exactly how the meal will taste and how it will sit in his stomach.

Lunch, then, becomes a stress-free way of beginning his daylong mental and physical preparation for that night’s game. It doesn’t mean Ichiro doesn’t enjoy finer foods, which he certainly does. It merely means he’s willing to sacrifice the immediate pleasure of seeking a gourmet lunch for the long-term reward of higher focus at game time.