Ohtani: Baseball Hero, Gone But Not Forgotten

As a younger baseball player, Ohtani was asked how he felt about seeing Japanese baseball players leave Japan for MLB careers. He answered that he never felt players were abandoning their traditions or homeland. Rather, he believed the MLB opportunities would only serve to showcase the superhero talents of Japanese players to the world. Shohei never felt the greatness of a player would be diminished by crossing the Pacific. He didn’t know then that his comments would very soon ring true for him.

Since signing with the Angels, Ohtani’s popularity continues to soar across Japan. A recent Kyodo news survey confirmed Ohtani is still Japan’s most popular athlete. I had the opportunity to attend several Ohtani games during spring training in Tempe Arizona. Although at first it looked like a dismal start for Ohtani, it was apparent he continued to be a superstar among his fan base in a new land. Hundreds of Japanese journalists and an assortment of giggling Japanese school girls filled whole sections of Diablo stadium, excited to capture footage of every play. MLB Ohtani jerseys quickly sold out as fans scrambled to make purchases.

Back home in Japan, workers in office towers continue to be given “break times” to watch Ohtani at bat in broadcasted MLB games. TV shows featuring fan club members dominate the sports airways as every aspect of Shohei’s life is dissected. Discussions about everything, from diet to the qualities he would look for in his future wife, fill hours of conversation.

Prior to games in many Japanese stadiums, Shohei’s MLB feats are highlighted on large
stadium screens to applauding fans. Package deals to attend MLB games in North America have become a hot ticket item. Outside the USA, Canada’s largest Shohei Ohtani fan club has become a reality.

My sense is that this continued support is because Shohei has never abandoned who he is. He isn’t becoming just an American MLB player; he remains true to his culture and, in Japanese tradition, is humble to his approach of the samurai tradition of “nitoryu” (two weapons as one): batting and pitching. This is truly a one way cultural exchange for MLB.

By: Dave Pollard

May 22nd, 2018 – Recap

The Toronto Bluejays took an early lead in a 5 run 1st inning from the costly error by Chris Young off Russell Martin’s RF fly. The Angels then held the Jays scoreless for the rest of the game, giving a chance for a comeback.

First Appearance

When Shohei stepped up to the plate, the fans in Toronto welcomed him to Canada with a round of applause. At this point the Angels have yet to get a man on base, the atmosphere in the stadium was tense as everyone knew what Shohei is capable of. As he got into his batting stance, all eyes were on Shohei.

Happ delivered a 90 MPH fastball inside for a swinging strike. “I have to admit his swing is really nice” said an unnamed Bluejays fan near me. After working a full count off Happ, Shohei drew a walk of a 94 MPH fastball, first man on.

The Fans


Shohei Ohtani Fan Club Canada representative at the game. May 22nd, 2018.

There was no shortage of Shohei Ohtani fans around the stadium in Angels gear and Bluejays gear. Every time Shohei stepped up to the plate, everyone had their cell phone cameras out to capture the magic of the moment.


Shohei fans showing support with Kanji block letters

Catch Shohei tomorrow at 7:07 pm EST against Arron Sanchez (2-4, 4.47 ERA)

Shohei & Angels arrive in Toronto

The Toronto Blue Jays kicks off a three game series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim tonight at the Rogers center. This is also the first time that Shohei Ohtani will play in Canada. Coming off a spectacular 9-K performance on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays for his 4th win (see previous post), Ohtani is ready to take a few swings against J Happ on Tuesday at the Rogers Center.

The slumping Jays, having trouble filling the stadium this season due to their abysmal slide (2-8 record in the previous 10 games), will hopefully see a boost in attendance from the appearance of Ohtani. Normally flooded with blue at the Rogers Center (the heart of multicultural Toronto), we’ll no doubt see supporters of Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani (and probably a few for Mike Trout) in the stands this evening.

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