Photo credit: @AngelsRadioKLAA
By Mizhuo Takagi
OAKLAND — Despite him missing 2/3rds of the season as a pitcher and the Los Angeles Angels having a losing season, two-way phenomenon Shohei Ohitani has proven his abilities and remains a candidate for the AL Rookie of the Year award.
Ichiro Suzuki was the sensation when he made his Major League debut with the Mariners in 2001, and the high-volume contact hitter not only won the AL Rookie of the Year, but also the AL MVP. 17 years later Ohtani crossed the ocean from Japan, but he is totally different. He is a slugger and a pitcher who can throw the ball over 100 miles per hour.
Ohtani made his debut as DH on March 29, and as a pitcher on April 1. Both debuts occurred in Oakland and the lucky fans in the Bay Area got to watch him hit and pitch.
Ohtani’s two-way endeavor brought excitement to both sides of the Pacific. In fact, there were approximately 200 Japanese reporters and crew members on Opening Day and 100 to 150 through the season when he plays at home.
Ohtani was met with skepticism, but he was named AL Player of the Week on April 8, and later AL Rookie of the Month for April.
When Ohtani’s right elbow injury was reported in June, disappointment spread. It was like, “the dream is over!” But he came back after missing six weeks with the injury and one of the two dreams is still alive. He continues to hit homers and contribute to production.
On September 2, Ohtani became the first player to hit 15 homers and pitch 50 innings since Babe Ruth. Now, he has extended the number of HRs to 20. He received his second career Player of the Week honor on September 10.
Ohtani played DH during three-game series against the A’s from September 18 to 20, and there were Ohtani fans all the way from Japan who stopped by Oakland just to watch him play.
Osamu and Noriko Suzuki, who used to live in Menlo Park in 2001, visited the Bay Area to watch Ohtani play. His first season in the MLB may be a let down, but they felt relieved rather than disappointed.
The Suzukis said, “We were worried about his injury, but he is hitting well and even a Rookie of the Year candidate. It could have been a better season, but I think he has a great season and we are happy for him.”
Japanese college student, Taku Shibata, and his three friends were all decked out in Ohtani t-shirts in Oakland.
Shibata said, “I hope he will continue to play two-way as long as he can. It would have been awesome if I could watch him pitch too, but I will definitely come and watch him when he recovers from injury. He is truly a star for my generation.”
If Ohtani undergoes Tommy John surgery, he will likely not return to the mound until 2020. It has been reported that he has not made any decision yet and is trying to look at other options. So many pitchers have gone through Tommy John surgery, but there is no example nor two-way player like him.