Japan is known for many things. They produce great technology. They value traditions and cultural practices immensely and they also make one of the best tasting dishes you can eat in the Asian cuisine. Aside from these known facts about Japan, they are also known to have produced a number of great baseball players that could compete on an international level. To name some, there are the likes of Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish, and Koji Uehara. These great baseball players have had their rise to fame and there is a player in Japan who is just about to follow in the footsteps of these amazing players. His name is Shohei Ohtani.
Basic Information about Shohei Ohtani
Some people are just blessed to know early on in their lives what they want to do with it. This is exactly the case with Shohei Ohtani. Born on July 5, 1994, it was clear early on in his childhood that he was going to be great. He grew to a height of 6 ft 4 inches and weight around 200 pounds. Men at this height are usually slow but the physique of Ohtani allows him to be a very mobile and strong player on the field.
Learning about this man’s life is like reading a manga about a young baseball superstar because that is exactly what he was. He went to Hanamaki Higashi High School, which is a school found in the Iwate Prefecture of Japan, and it was there that he showed his prowess in the game of baseball. He recorded jaw-dropping stats like throwing a pitch that flew through the air at speeds of 160 kilometers per hour, which is the fastest ever thrown by a Japanese high schooler to date. Considering that he is only 23 years old presently, for him to hold such a record means incredible things for him. Not only did he set that record, he chose the perfect time to do it because it happened in a championship tournament called Summer Koshien. Since it was a championship tournament, a larger audience was in attendance and this certainly helped in boosting the popularity of his name.
It wasn’t clear what training regimens he was following during those times but what was clear was the fact that he put in the work and it showed in the games that he played for his school. Aside from high school tournaments, Shohei Ohtani had another opportunity to show off his skills in 2012’s Under-18 Baseball World Championship. Although Ohtani and his team had a record of 0-1, in that single game, he was able to rack up 16 strikeouts, eight walks, five runs, five hits, and a run average of 435 within 10 and 1’3 innings pitched in. A stat line like that will definitely be noticed on a stage such as the World Baseball Championship and that is exactly what happened as his name became even bigger in the baseball world despite the loss.
The Story of Shohei Ohtani Before He Moved to the MLB
He was so good and there was no denying it. In the basketball world, he could be compared to Kobe Bryant or Lebron James because, right after their high school careers, they decided to go pro. The difference was that Ohtani had even the teams from the MLB interested in him already. When he expressed that he was thinking about moving immediately to the major leagues, the teams like the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers did not hesitate to express their immense interest in him. He even got as far as announcing that he would rather join the MLB than go professional in Japan. Regardless of this though, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters still went on to draft him.
It was a risk doing that but it paid off as they successfully persuaded him to go pro in Japan first and then move to the MLB later on in his young career. This would pay off because of his years in Japan, specifically in the PL or Pacific League, refined all his skills in the fields of the game that he really wanted to master. He started his career in Japan at the age of 18, specifically on March 29, 2013. In this game, he played as the right fielder. Aside from playing this position, his team also used his as a pitcher and if you knew more about the game of baseball, you would know that a player who can play well in both those positions is a hard player to find because it requires a unique set of skills to be good and proficient in both those roles. Kikuo Tokunaga of the 1950’s may be the first player to play both pitcher and position player but Ohtani was the first to start in both roles. Starting in these roles has a significant difference in terms of importance because when you start, you also bear the responsibility to set the tone of the match for your entire team.
These things weren’t the only things that he broke during his first season professionally. He also joined Takao Kajimoto as the only pitchers to bat the 3rd, 4th, or 5th. He finished with a record of 3-0 that season and with averages like 4.23 ERA while accumulating 33 walks and 46 strikeouts. He also hit .238, .284, and .376 in 204 plate appearance which are great start to have in your first year. Although he didn’t win the Rookie of the Year award, the people now certainly knew what he was capable of doing because of his amazing performance in his rookie season.
The sophomore slump is a belief in professional sports wherein it is said that a player in their second year is sure to perform worse than they previously did, hence the slump. Since this belief is embedded in the minds of people, when they see a sophomore perform better than they used to, they can’t help but think that the player is something special for being able to do that. Ohtani was one of those players as in his second season in the year of 2014, he played the entire season as his team’s pitcher and outfielder. He also showed off his skill as a hitter because he batted .274 which was inclusive of 28 extra-base hits that included 10 home runs. He also accumulated 31 RBI’s and received an on-base plus slugging percentage in 212 AB. As a pitcher, he struck out 179 hitters in 155.1 innings which was the third best in the NPB that season. He also made hitters hit a low of .223 against him.
He was able to accomplish a lot of other great feats in the league that year but one that certainly stood out was the event in the July 2014 Mazda All-Star Game. It was in this game that he threw a fastball with a speed of 162 kilometers per hour. This shattered the old fastest official pitch record held by Yoshinori Sato who, in 2010, threw a pitch with a speed of 161 kilometers per hour, and made Ohtani the new holder of this prestigious record. Because of this event, the jersey he wore for that All-Star game was auctioned and bought for 1,752,000 yen which was equivalent to around $17,000. This price made the worn jersey the top-seller in the said All-Star 2014 Charity Auction.
Later on, in that same season, he would once again pitch a ball with a speed of 162 km/h, or 101 mph, against the Eagles on October 5, 2014. He did it early in the game as he threw the said pitch while the lead-off hitter of the Eagles, Akiminai Ginji started in the 1st inning. The fans cheered him on when he did it but he didn’t stop there as in the 1st inning, out of the 15 pitches he threw, 8 of them reached speeds of at least 160 km/h which proved that his pitches could easily be that fast if he wanted to. He was only 20 years-old when he did this which means that he was still a long way from reaching his maximum strength. With this said, it might only be a matter of time before he breaks this record again.
He played well enough to be selected for the national team called Samurai Japan which participated in the Suzuki All-Star Series. For those who do not know, this particular series is a five-game friend competition between teams that are made up of major leaguers. He amazed the crowds in game 1 as he pitched a shutout inning. During this perfect inning, he retired 3 consecutive batters. He performed great in the other games as well and by the time December came in the year of 2014, Ohtani had become only the 2nd player to be plaid 100M yen in salary throughout the entire existence of the NPB. This contract tripled his old contract that was priced at only 30M yen.
He continued to improve in his performance throughout his 3rd, 4th, and 5th seasons, focusing on a specific aspect of the game in each of these seasons. He posted his career bests throughout these years despite obtaining injuries that took him off the field for a while as well as restricted his playing time by quite a bit. It would also be an injury on his right ankle that would prevent him from playing in the 2017 World Baseball Classic which was sad news for the fans because they wanted to see how he would do against the competition I that classic. 2017 also happened to be the year when he announced that he wanted to be posted at the end of the season to make him eligible to play in the MLB. With this said, missing the 2017 World Baseball Classic meant that the scouts wouldn’t be able to watch him in action right before negotiations with MLB teams would happen which could have been a great way to boost his stock value. Regardless of this though, the MLB and the NPB successfully arranged a deal that sent Ohtani to the Los Angeles Angels on November 21, 2017.
Details about Shohei Ohtani’s Contract with the Los Angeles Angels like His Salary and Other News
Considering the things that his young player has been able to do within the time he started playing as a professional, there was no doubting that he could play in the MLB. This was great news for the Los Angeles Angels organization because it made them feel safer about using their remaining $2.315 million international bonus pool to sign Ohtani. The Angels also played an additional $20 million to the Nippon-Ham Fighters as a posting fee.
A lot of money was involved in getting Ohtani to where he is now and if you take into account what he has already been able to contribute to the Angels in a span of a couple of months since his debut on April 1 of this year, you can be absolutely sure that the Angels aren’t regretting spending all that money to get Ohtani. In his first pitching appearance, he struck out 6 batters in 6 innings and ultimately gave his team the MLB and gave himself his first ever MLB win. 2 days after his debut, he recorded his first MLB home run against Josh Tomlin. It was a 397-foot 3-run homer and it made the crowd crazy for Ohtani. He didn’t stop there as in his next game, he once again would record another home run and this made him the first Angels player to ever record his first 2 career home runs in his first two career home games. He also tied a franchise record as he accumulated 12 total bases and 5 RBIs throughout the first 3 games of his young career in the MLB. If that wasn’t enough to impress you, in his second start on the mound which happened on April 8, 2017, he was able to pitch through 6 and 1/3 innings before allowing a single hit. He finished that game with seven scoreless innings as the pitcher while striking out 12 batters along the way.
He is just getting started in the MLB and the future looks bright for this guy. There are certain rumors that he doesn’t even play for the money and if that were true, it would be even greater news for the organization because that means that they might be able to draw in more great players since Ohtani won’t be eating up the cap with big salary demands, even though he probably will deserve It in the years to come. If you want to see his play for yourself, all you have to do is go to a TV that has the MLB channel and wait until an Angels’ game goes on. If you love baseball, you shouldn’t waste a chance to set your eyes upon a developing Hall of Famer in Shohei Ohtani. It’s not every day that scouts or player finders find a talent like Ohtani so as a lover of the game, do not hesitate to enjoy his amazing play and just be in awe of this guy’s early greatness.