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Baseball’s best player and no one knows him

Shohei “Shotime” Ohtani. Photo courtesy of the Chicago-Sun Times

Baseball’s best player and no one knows him
July 21
14:51 2021

Outside of baseball fans, the name Shohei “Shotime” Ohtani doesn’t ring many bells and that is an absolute tragedy. The Japanese slugger/pitcher is literally a one-man show and no one knows about him and baseball is to blame.

Ohtani is one of the best pitchers and hitters in the game, something we haven’t been able to say about a player since Babe Ruth nearly a century ago. To have a player dominate as a pitcher and hitter is a dream for Major League Baseball (MLB) and they are not maximizing this opportunity that is in front of them.

Ohtani plays for the Los Angeles Angels, which is the second largest market in the country. But the Angels are a bad team, so outside of Angel fans, not many people are watching their games or paying attention to what’s going on with them. MLB needs to find a way to change that quickly.

This season has been a remarkable one for him thus far. Shotime made the All-Star game as a starting pitcher and a designated hitter, becoming the first player in MLB to accomplish the feat. So far, Ohtani has hit 33 homeruns with 70 RBI while having a batting average of .279. Those are good numbers to have for an entire season, but Ohtani has these stats at the All-Star break.

As a pitcher, he is equally as dominant. Ohtani has a 4-1 record with a 3.49 ERA. He would have several more wins if the Angels provided more run support.

Baseball has been slowly dropping in popularity over the last 20 years. I feel it’s mostly due to the slow pace, lack of excitement, resistance to change, and the fact they don’t market their superstars as much as the other major sport leagues in the country. Ohtani presents the perfect opportunity to jumpstart the league once again.

I have read that certain people in the sports world think that because Ohtani is a foreign-born player, he won’t be able to reach the masses as much as a U.S. born player, but I beg to differ. The uniqueness that he brings to the sport is unlike anything we have ever seen, which will bring more people to the stadiums and to their TV’s.

Stephen A. Smith, co-host of ESPN’s First Take, was under fire last week for some insensitive comments made about Ohtani. I feel his comments were taken somewhat out of context, but I think he could have worded himself better, especially with his tremendous command of the English language.

Smith said that while he gets that baseball is an international sport, “when you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube or to the ballpark  … “I don’t think it helps that the No. 1 face is a dude that needs an interpreter.” He attempted to clarify himself later saying he was referring to the marketability and the promotion of the sport.”

While I don’t one hundred percent agree with Smith on his comments, because we have seen international players that have spoken limited or no English, become superstars in America.  I vividly remember Yao Ming leading the NBA in All-Star fan votes several years in a row and he spoke limited English. However, we all know this country does have its flaws and there are people out there who will not like Ohtani simply because he is a foreign-born player.

Smith apologized to Ohtani and those who were offended by his comments. I don’t think it will matter if Ohtani uses an interpreter or not if he continues to put up these insane numbers at the plate and on the bump.

Ohtani is only 27 years old and is entering his prime. It should be no surprise that he is dominating the sport the way he has this season. Since he entered the league in 2018, he has done nothing but impress and trend upwards.

In 2018 he won Rookie of the Year honors with impressive stats of .285 batting average, 22 homeruns, 61 RBI and 10 stolen bases.  As a pitcher, he started 10 games and recorded a 4-2 record with a 3.31 ERA.

If not for Tommy John surgery to his UCL, which kept him off the mound until 2020, he would have even better pitching stats. He came back from that injury as good as ever.

I bet other teams that had a chance to sign Ohtani are kicking themselves right about now. The reason he chose to sign with the Angels was due to the fact they were going to let him hit and pitch. No other team was willing to guarantee that stipulation in his contract and you can’t really blame them because we have never seen anyone do that in modern history. The Angels were and now they are reaping the benefits from it.

Ohtani has actually been a professional player since 2013, playing with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball. The Fighters gave Ohtani a similar contract that allowed him to showcase his unique set of skills. He was able to hone his skills as a pitcher and hitter in Japan and the decision to play there before coming to MLB was a good one for Ohtani.

At only 27 years of age, Ohtani has a decade or more to rack up numbers from both sides. It will be interesting to see if he influences younger kids to attempt the same thing as they develop in the game. It would be nice in the next 10 or 15 years to have a couple of players that make it to the major leagues that can hit and pitch. I definitely don’t want to see the trend end with Ohtani.

Major League Baseball better wake up and realize the golden opportunity they have to market their game to a new audience that probably would never turn on a game. Ohtani is exciting and this could be a great chance to reach a new demographic to replace the older one MLB currently has.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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