There’s a buzz in Japan this winter that hasn’t been seen in years.
This noise is Ohtani Shohei.
The Japanese crowd will finally get what they have been waiting for for six years – Ohtani in the national team jersey in the stadium A world baseball classic.
And two-way Los Angeles Angels the superstar is more than willing to oblige.
“I only think about the championship. I’m just thinking about winning,” Ohtani said at the January 6 unveiling of the first dozen players to be selected for Samurai Japan on the WBC from March 8-21, part of which will take place in Tokyo.
“Last time I couldn’t play and this will be my first WBC. Can’t wait. I’m ready for work.
“As I said before, winning is what counts. I’m just happy to be considered as part of this team and want to move on.
“I haven’t played in Japan in a while, so that’s something I’m looking forward to as well.”
The feeling is mutual. Ohtani is Japan’s golden boy, a man who makes no mistakes and walks on water.
The 1.93-meter freak athlete says the right things, does the right things, and has the look to match a boy’s sense of humor and personality. All the men were no created equal.
It’s in addition to what Ohtani does on the pitch, which is nothing short of superhuman.
Coming into the prime of his career, the 28-year-old already has one major league MVP (2021) and was a finalist last season when some felt he had an even better campaign than the year he won the honor.
In 2022, Ohtani continued to post fantastic baseball numbers. On the mound he went 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts – all in the top ten of AL.
On the board, he hit 34 home runs and rolled 95, batting .273 and scoring 90 runs (and 11 stolen bases) with the not-so-good Angels, who finished 33 games in first place.
Indeed, it took almost a Triple Crown season Yankee from New York sloth Aaron Judge – who set a new AL record of 62 home runs – to strip Ohtani for a second consecutive MVP title.
He became the first player in history to qualify for the league rankings as both pitcher and batsman in the same year. Skip Captain James T. Kirk, Ohtani is the one who goes where no man has gone before.
A sponsor’s dream, many in the industry predict he will earn a $500 million contract as a free agent next season, unprecedented in Major League Baseball. That’s half a billion dollars.
So Japan has every reason to rejoice as its prodigal son prepares for the WBC, which is held for the first time since 2017 due to the global pandemic. Japan won the first two editions in 2006 and 2009, leading to a surge in popularity for the competition.
As a child falling in love with the game, Ohtani was glued to the set, such as Ichiro and Matsuzaka Daisuke helped their country win the championship.
Now it’s Ohtani’s turn to inspire, lead – win. The best player in all of baseball doesn’t care if he hits or throws or does both.
Ohtani just wants to win and Japan will welcome it. The entire nation sits in suspense as the curtain on “Sho-Time back in Japan” is about to rise.
“Playing on this stage was one of my dreams,” he said. “As soon as I was asked, I agreed. I couldn’t play last time because I was injured, so I want more.
“Since I got into baseball, I’ve never been content with second place. I never thought losing was acceptable. It’s only natural that I want to win a competition that I’ve been aiming for for a long time.
“I am not someone who leads with words. I’ll just make sure I do what’s expected of me. But at the same time, the players on this team don’t need to be told what to do.
“A good team consists of players who understand their roles. It is important that every player does his job.
“I will do whatever they ask of me. As a player, I have no control over who does what. I’ll just do my best, whatever it is.”