Shohei Ohtani, Home Run King: Great Achievement Disproves That It ‘Can’t Be Done by a Japanese Person’

The home run is one of the splendors of baseball. The home run crown has been won by a Japanese player for the first time in Major League Baseball. His real greatness probably lies in the fact that he makes people believe that it is natural that he would achieve such a historical feat.

Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels hit 44 homers this season to win the American League home run title. From the physical and power perspectives, Japanese players were said to be unable to achieve such a feat. His accomplishment, which has defied conventional thinking, is commendable.

In 2021, Ohtani hit 46 home runs but did not win the title. That must have made him feel how special it is to win the title this season. Ohtani commented, “It’s quite an honor and I’m humbled.” Many people must be rejoicing in his honor.

He has thoroughly developed his physique and acquired extraordinary power. This season, Ohtani also opted to use a slightly longer bat. The balls he hit traveled greatly increased distances, and from the loud impact the batted balls quickly flew into the stands for home runs, thrilling many people without a doubt.

In particular, his hitting in June was phenomenal. He hit 15 home runs in a month, breaking his own team record, and his last June homer traveled 150 meters for his 30th of the season.

At the end of the regular season, his batting average topped .300 and he also reached 20 stolen bases. He also had unquestionable success as a starting pitcher, going 10-5 with 167 strikeouts. Ohtani is considered the leading contender for the American League MVP award, which would be his second.

One cannot help but wonder how far he could have extended his achievements had he not missed the final games of the season due to injuries to his right elbow and oblique.

He also entertained fans with the samurai helmet placed on his or his teammates’ head after hitting a home run.

This year, Ohtani also showed off his outstanding pitching and hitting during the World Baseball Classic international tournament. He was instrumental in taking Samurai Japan to the top of the world and was named the tournament’s MVP.

The moment of joy in the WBC Final when Ohtani struck out his Angels teammate Mike Trout to win the tournament and then threw his glove and cap must have been etched in the minds of many people.

It was truly a year when Ohtani operated at full blast. The hope is he will get enough rest during the offseason to heal the injuries to his body.

Ohtani underwent surgery on his right elbow in September and is expected to devote himself to hitting next season. Is it asking too much to expect him to win the home run title two seasons in a row or even his first Triple Crown?

Ohtani could be considered the MLB’s most iconic figure. He may be known as a pitching, hitting two-way player, but for Ohtani, who so loves the sport and trains so hard, it is his play style of throwing, hitting and running with all he has that likely feels a more natural fit.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 3, 2023)