Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani is at the top of the MLB home run rankings with 23 home runs this season.
He hit a home run three days in a row on May 21st of 2021, reaching the record that baseball legend Babe Ruth set for the first time 100 years earlier.
Before he joined the LA Angels, he was drafted by the Japanese NPB professional league team Nippon Ham Fighters after graduating from high school in 2012. He is a two-way player, which means having the ability to both pitch and hit. This is an uncommon ability to possess in Japan. He was already pitching a 99 mph (160km/h) fastball when he was an 18-year-old high school student, making it the fastest speed in the all high school student tournaments.
However, critics said, ‘It’s impossible to be a two-way player in the NPB’.’ They argued that baseball players should choose to specialize in only pitching or hitting. Against everyone’s expectations, Ohtani did great in the NPB, and was awarded the MVP in 2016.
Can you imagine how incredibly difficult it is to be a well established two-way player in the professional world? Baseball players typically choose either hitting or pitching, and Ohtani chose both which is an unbelievable decision to make. The main reason why people don’t become two-way players is because the degree of fatigue that these players experience is totally different. The pitchers throw the ball around 100 mph in a match, and this causes extreme stress to the body, making it very difficult to hit later on.
His career in MLB did not start splendidly. At spring camp due to his mediocre performance, the media and some experts said Shohei should have started in the minor league. However, that perception was completely changed once the season started, as he completely rebranded himself as a new Shohei Ohtani in the MLB.
Ohtani is still making remarkable progress. It is not too much to say that Mr. Kuriyama, the top manager of Nippon Ham Fighters, developed Ohtani into becoming the player we see today. Before Ohtani was drafted by the Nippon Ham Fighters, he had a plan to go to the MLB without the experience of being in the NPB. However, Mr. Kuriyama knew that the decision had many risks, so he admonished him with a 40-page presentation on why the decision of going to the MLB straight away would be a bad idea. Mr. Kuriyama said, “Many people challenged to the MLB after graduating high school, and many people failed. I don’t want Ohtani to be like them”.
Listening to his mentor’s advice, Ohtani decided to enter the Nippon Ham Fighters under the condition that he is able to play as a two-way player. If Mr. Kuriyama didn’t stop him, and didn’t accept him to be a two-way player, today’s Ohtani wouldn’t exist.
All the home runs that Ohtani hit were great, but two of them were especially unbelievable. The first time he made audiences go crazy was his 11th home run. In Fenway Park, the home stadium of Boston Red Sox, there is a fence 11.3 meters tall called the “Green Monster” at only the left side, and is not easy to hit home runs over. However, Ohtani managed to do it. Ohtani hit the home run over the Green Monster with a big arch. “He is such a freak athlete.” “He is also a monster,” fans in the stadium said in the interview.
His second unbelievable home run was his 13th. Amazingly, he hit the ball outside of the strike zone, and he brought the ball over the fence. “Oh my goodness! What can’t he do!” the announcer screamed.
Shohei Ohtani will be a big star of MLB in the next few years, so don’t miss his “Sho-time.”