Shohei Ohtani Is Just A Star With America’s Need For Entertainment


SEATTLE – As I write this from the lone cheap seats on the high upper deck of T-Mobile Park, I’m still trying to digest what I’ve just seen.

Broad-shouldered pitcher and powerful hitter Shohei Ohtani for the Los Angeles Angels – a unique player Major League Baseball has had for generations – just left the entire stadium in stunned homage. .

The ball went skyward, and oh, I mean skyward? several members On that warm night, Ohtani’s rivals, the Seattle Mariners, stretched their necks to follow him and then looked sadly at the ground. The crowd let out a collective gasp, a sound similar to that of air coming out of a balloon.

“Oh my god, did this just happen?” A fan muttered to his friends.

The ball landed close enough that I could hear it hit a concrete step. One contractor bent down and said he had been working on Mariners games for over a decade and had never seen a ball hit that high and that hard before.

From where I was sitting, above the pitch, home plate looked like it was a mile away. It seemed impossible for a human to hit a ball this far.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Shohei Ohtani has spent the entire season bending the curve of the possible. It looks like it can do just about anything from the plate and the launch mound. That’s indisputable: Shohei Ohtani, now 27, is one of the biggest shows in all sports.

On Monday, Ohtani will headline the Home Run Derby at Coors Field in Denver. He will play for the All-Star game on Tuesday.

If he keeps this up, there can be an argument that he will complete the greatest single-season singles baseball has ever had.

Cliffs Notes, for those who can’t keep up: This upper deck home run was Ohtani’s 33rd game of the season. He’s leading the league in home runs and could threaten Barry Bonds’ season record of 73 if he keeps it up. He rewrites the record books and humiliates a game known to put out even its most skilled practitioners.

Ohtani did all this by proving himself as the first true two-way player in generations. He is now considered one of the best pitchers in baseball. Last week, when he dominated the Boston Red Sox from the mound to set their record 4-1, about 75 percent of their pitches were hit. It flared fast balls and shuffled in slow trajectory curves. It wasn’t just a shot. It was art.

After the match, his manager, Joe Maddon, compared Ohtani to the iconic icon of baseball, the last dominant player to play as a top and casual player in the major leagues. “We all romanticize what it would be like to watch Baby Ruth play,” Maddon said. “You hear these things, and it’s a larger-than-life concept. We are living it now. So don’t underestimate what we’ve seen.”

Baseball needs Ohtani right now. The game is listed. As it has for years, baseball has struggled for the wide popularity it has enjoyed in recent years, but now it does so while facing the undercurrent of a pandemic.

America also needs Ohtani right now.

Ohtani, At 6 feet-4 and remarkably fast, he starred in Japan and was named the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year with the Angels. But injuries and the coronavirus pandemic have prevented him from fully developing. The mother of all debut seasons couldn’t have timed it better.

The origins of the epidemic in China have driven the crazy out. As a result, Asian Americans—new immigrants and families who have been in the United States for generations, people with roots from every nation on the Asian continent—live in a state of perpetual siege. They are dealing with a spike in sometimes deadly hate crimes and outrageous discrimination.

What do we find in this dreadful environment? An Asian athlete who is fully in control of a sport that still markets itself as American pastime.

Ron Wakabayashi, an avid baseball fan, has now retired at the age of 76, after years leading the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations and before that the Japanese American Citizens’ Association, “All people are taking on Babe Ruth and being compared to him.” . “Baby Ruth! He’s a man deeply embedded in the American spirit, I mean, wow. Ohtani is doing what he’s doing, it means a lot to this community. Especially now.”

I spoke with a number of Asian American baseball fans and community leaders last week. A Buddhist monk whose temple is one of several temples in Los Angeles was vandalized with hatred this year. Ohtani-loving college professors studying Asia’s struggle for representation and belonging in the United States. Mothers, fathers and families inside the sailors stadium.

I have heard over and over again stories of fear and pain associated with the rise of prejudices.

But I also heard something hopeful: how the magical season of Ohtani has a soothing, supportive effect.

Wakabayashi told a story that explains this perfectly. He said he watches his back carefully these days during frequent three-mile marches in a community in the Los Angeles area, where several anti-Asian attacks have occurred.

But he thinks of Ohtani on those walks. And when he does, he thinks of strength and courage: the great Japanese player never gets scared, “never backs down”. and it does it all.

In a time of great turbulence, Ohtani’s strength and joy and the way he moves through a baseball world with a few Asian faces “makes life just a little bit better”.

Can sport do more? More? I do not think so.

Ohtani, who uses a translator to communicate with sports media in English, remains silent about the growing discrimination and anger in the United States. In the tradition of many Japanese-born players before him, he is discreet in almost everything except baseballs, strikes and home runs.

But it’s okay. He doesn’t need to talk or talk to make a difference. His shots, strokes, and graceful two-way fluidity he uses to dominate the big leagues says a lot.


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