Global superstar Shohei Ohtani to appear in university English textbook

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Right: Tsuyoshi Chiba, in Tokyo holding an English textbook he helped edit in the past, says, “I hope young people will learn from Shohei Ohtani how to go about life.” Left: Shohei Ohtani high-fives teammates in the dugout after scoring a run in Anaheim, Calif., on July 30.

Superstar Major League Baseball player Shohei Ohtani has been rewriting baseball history books with his feats and will soon be written about in a textbook for university English classes.

A former university professor and editor of such English textbooks has recently interviewed Ohtani, the 28-year-old starting pitcher and designated hitter for the Los Angeles Angels. An article in the textbook about Ohtani will use some of the two-way superstar’s own words about his achievements.

“I hope students can find one thing to pursue their whole life, be it a sport or studying something,” Ohtani said in the interview with Tsuyoshi Chiba.

Chiba, 76, is a former Tokyo University of Agriculture professor who has been involved in the editing process of about 30 English textbooks for university students. His past interview articles for textbooks have included other baseball greats such as former Boston Red Sox and Seibu Lions pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and legendary former Yomiuri Giants slugger Shigeo Nagashima, the lifetime honorary manager of the team.

The interview with Ohtani took place remotely in January. Chiba asked him an array of questions, ranging from how he took on the challenge to become a pitcher and hitter, to how he coped with right elbow surgery in 2018 during his first year in the United States, and the rehabilitation process that followed.

“It doesn’t happen very often that you share a room with people you don’t know,” Ohtani said in the interview with Chiba, likening his first year with the Angels to his dorm life during high school. “This meant so much to me, as it helped me get along with people whose language I didn’t speak.”

Chiba intends to describe Ohtani as a “two-way superstar” in the textbook.

“He has surpassed just being a Japanese star and become Ohtani the global phenomenon,” Chiba said. “Calling him just a ‘star’ doesn’t do him justice.”

Planned for inclusion in the textbook article will be Ohtani winning the American League Most Valuable Player award for the 2021 season as well as his record-filled 2022 season, during which be became the first player since Babe Ruth 104 years ago to have double digits in wins and home runs in a single season. Ohtani also became the first major league player to surpass the minimum number of plate appearances and innings pitched to qualify among the league leaders as a hitter and pitcher.

Ohtani and Chiba both come from Iwate Prefecture. Chiba also said he spent his high school days in Hanamaki, the city that hosts Ohtani’s alma mater, Hanamaki Higashi High School.

“It feels like fate that a local athlete now stands on the world’s finest stage and that I am going to translate the story of his success into English,” Chiba said.

The textbook will be published in the 2025 school year by Tokyo-based Nanun-do and is expected to be used at about 100 universities, including Keio University and Waseda University.

“Ohtani continues to strive to surpass himself,” Chiba said. “So I hope that students will learn from Ohtani the importance of being patient and having a strong will.”