A look at the story of Shohei Ohtani



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"The only thing I can promise you is that I will play as much as I can and give 100 percent," Ohtani said. Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com last spring. "Fortunately, by doing that, I can inspire many people, perhaps in their personal lives, if they have other problems, and encourage them to see me play, which would probably be the most honorable thing about playing baseball." [19659003] Despite all the headlines and publicity, there are still things about Ohtani that many fans of American baseball do not know. Then, with the help of some Japanese baseball experts and historians, we put together this official "case file" from Ohtani.

Humble but athletic parenting: Ohtani's father, Toru, was a baseball player in Japan's high-quality corporate league, which produced Major League reliever Junichi Tazawa.

Ohtani's mother, Kayoko, was an accomplished badminton player. He was born in the agricultural city of Oshu, in the rural prefecture (state) of Iwate, where urban centers are few and rice fields abound. It is about three hours north of Tokyo, and it was near there that Ohtani attended Hanamaki Higashi High School.

"He's not a fan of the city of Tokyo," said Brad Lefton, a bilingual writer who covered baseball in Japan and the United States. States for years. "That could be part of the reason he's so admired, there's still an innocence for him, he does it his way, which I think connects with people because it's refreshing."

The reds are definitely interested [19659002] Koshien's arrival: The famous baseball tournament of the Japanese high school, Summer Koshien, has been the birthplace of baseball legends Japanese. Ichiro Suzuki burst onto the scene there in 1991. The future great player Daisuke Matsuzaka became a sensation in that tournament in the '98, launching a game without hits and throwing 250 pitches in 17 innings at another start. Current Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka pitched 742 pitches in 52 2/3 innings in six appearances in the tournament in 2006.

Ohtani's team did not win Koshien summer, but it still captured the eyes of scouts and hearts of the fans when, days before his 18th birthday, he launched a fastball that was recorded at 160 kilometers per hour, or 99 mph. It was a record for a Japanese high school pitcher.

"Ohtani was different from the beginning," said Jim Allen, a Kyodo News writer who has been covering Japanese baseball for more than three decades. "I was going to play and throw, and there was so much controversy in Japan." The fans loved it, but most of the old ones made fun of it from the beginning, saying, "What are you doing?" But to the fans they loved it "

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Decision time: After Ohtani finished high school and established himself as a potential superstar, it was time for him to decide where professional ball would play. He surprised some on October 21, 2012, when he announced that he would give up the opportunity to become a professional in Japan, instead of opting to try the waters of Major League Baseball. As possible offers from the Dodgers, the Rangers, the Red Sox and the Yankees swarmed throughout the rumor factory, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NPB Draft.

Then in the course of a month, Nippon-Ham devised a long-term strategy that paid off. It was a presentation that the club called "The Way to Realize Shohani Ohtani's Dream," and it was a carefully calculated sales pitch that was based on reality and honesty about the tribulations of novice players in the United States.

"They put together a video," said Robert Whiting, best-selling author whose 1989 book "You have to have Wa" is considered seminal work in Japanese baseball. "It showed the really tough things that young minor leagues have to go through, and especially what Ohtani would have to go through: the lack of Japanese restaurants, the 18-hour bus rides, things like that."

"But he also highlighted how it would be an instant star with Nippon-Ham, how family and friends would be there, how would this comfortable cocoon. They would help train him to get to the big leagues. I would not have to waste my time worrying about anything more than that. "

Ohtani signed, putting his faith in Nippon-Ham, and that faith has been returned now that the club has agreed to publish it years earlier than it would be required.

  Sherman in Ohtani most recent
Sherman in Ohtani most recent

Sherman on how the new MLB schedule will affect Ohtani

Joel Sherman joins MLB Tonight to discuss how the new MLB schedule could benefit Shohei Ohtani job search

The game of two ways: Ohtani was not always the "Japanese Babe Ruth" or, as a Reuters report in 2014 called it, a "Nito-ryu", or two-sword samurai. In fact, it reduced .238 / .284 / .376 for Nippon-Ham in his rookie season in 2013, while playing mainly in right field when he did not pitch, finished with a 3-0 record with a 4.23 ERA, 46 strikeouts and 33 walks. in 13 games (11 starts) on the mound.

"They came up to me," What do you think? Do you do both? ", said Ohtani to Sports Il. polished in April. "I definitely wanted to try it, I still thought I had the opportunity to be a great professional hitter."

Ohtani improved during his 19-year season the following year, hitting 10 homers in 212 at-bats. and breaking as a pitcher, scoring an 11-4 record with a 2.61 ERA and 179 strikeouts in 155 1/3 innings.

It was after the 2014 season that American fans first noticed Ohtani when he was playing for a Japanese All-Star team against the big-league stars in a series of exhibitions that November. Ohtani started the fifth and final game and struck out Yasiel Puig, Justin Morneau and Evan Longoria in the first inning, allowing two runs in seven innings of work while fanning seven.

<img src = "https://mediadownloads.mlb.com/mlbam/2016/11/14/images/mlbf_36939359_th_45.jpg" alt = "Ohtani fans the side [19659018] Ohtani team fans

MLB @ JPN: Ohtani fans the Japan team in the 1st

11/18/14: Shohei Ohtani struck out to Yasiel Puig, Justin Morneau and Evan Longoria in the 1st inning for Samurai Japan [19659029] Ohtani stepped back little on the plate the following year, partly due to recurring and annoying problems in the legs, cutting .202 / .252 / .376 in 109 at-bats.

Ohtani's launch stardom was meteoric, but he did they will not join the two sides of their game until 2016, when they dropped .322 / .416 / .588 with 22 home runs, throwing 1.86 ERA and striking out 174 batters in 140 innings in 21 games (20 starts). the year he became the first player to win the "Best Nine" award as a pitcher and hitter (DH), and was also named Player Most Valuable of the Pacific League while leading the Fighters to the title of the Japan Series. [19659003] "It took him a long time to be the guy he is now, the batter in between," Allen said. "It did not happen suddenly."

 Preparation of Ohtani for MLB
Preparation of Ohtani for MLB

Evaluation of Ohtani's preparation to play in MLB

Jim Callis of MLBPipeline.com discusses the evaluation of the free agent pitcher / outfielder Shohei Ohtani as prospect

Everyone expected Ohtani to take another step forward as a batter and pitcher, but an ankle injury in February forced him to retire from Japan's roster for the World Baseball Clbadic and lose a large portion of the NPB season. He still hit .332 / .403 / .540 in 231 plate appearances, while posting a 3.20 ERA with 10.3 strikeouts for every nine innings in five starts as a pitcher.

After the season, Ohtani made it clear that he was ready to be "published," which would allow him to sign with an MLB club. If he waited two more years, he could have been a true free agent, but because of MLB's rules of publication and international spending rules, virtually every club will have the opportunity to sign him, with no other team than the Rangers, Yankees and Twins. . taking more than $ 3 million in your budget.

 Ohtani potential landing point
Ohtani potential landing point

Feinsand at Ohtani's most likely landing site

MLB.com executive reporter Mark Feinsand joins 12 : 25 Live with Alexa and speculates that Shohei Ohtani could play for the Yankees

"As long as I have enough money to be able to play baseball and enjoy baseball, that's all I'm asking right now," Ohtani told Sports Illustrated. [19659003] • Sho and tell: Frequently asked questions about Ohtani, publication system

Ohtani revealed: According to all versions, Ohtani is the total package: a true sports rarity. He is 6 feet 4 inches, weighs 215 pounds and is as fast as he has been running from the home plate to the first, but there is much more.

"He looks like a movie star," Whiting said. "And he is the modern version of Frank Merriwell, a fictional comic character from the 20s and 30s: the guy who is the All-Star athlete, he's really clean, he helps the neighbors, he helps the old woman with her purchases , just being a great guy for everyone. "

And it's not an act. For all the time, Ohtani has always been respectful to the media, even though he has been inundated with cover for the past five years, and his No. 11 shirts and billboards with his face are seen all over Japan.

Ohtani lives in the Nippon -Ham dorms so he can be closer to the training facilities, is diligent with exercise and a nutrition student, and more immersed in being all baseball all the time. He does not go out to town with his teammates, he has not shown the desire to put the dating scene above his athletic preparation, he studies English and smiles a lot.

"He knows how everything works," Lefton said. "When you try to do something, but you have not done it yet, instead of talking to yourself, you let success come first"

Doug Miller is a MLB.com reporter. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB . This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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