Shohei Ohtani Hits 1st Homer as Angels Beat A’s

AP Photo / Jed Jacobsohn
Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the fifth inning of a game against the Oakland Athletics in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday.

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Not until Angels rookie Logan O’Hoppe had completed his first big league home-run trot and returned to the dugout did he catch his breath and fully realize what had just happened.

He put on a straw hat with the Golden State Warriors logo and got swarmed with love, handshakes and hugs from his teammates.

“I think putting that hat on and running through the dugout definitely kind of gave me that moment to have and get excited about it,” he said. “When I took it off, it was back to it. I did have a couple seconds to take it in.”

O’Hoppe’s three-run drive in the fourth broke up a scoreless game, Mike Trout had a two-run shot the next inning and Shohei Ohtani connected one pitch later as the Los Angeles Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 6-0 on Sunday.

With two outs and in his 22nd at-bat, O’Hoppe crushed a 1-1 fastball from Ken Waldichuk (0-1) over the wall in left-center, a 391-foot-shot with a 101.5 mph exit velocity. The catcher could be seen smiling and sporting that straw hat courtesy of staffer Tim Buss while celebrating in the dugout afterward with Ohtani.

“Obviously all the emotions that come with it, it was a pretty surreal moment, and happy it got us on the board,” he said. “… I knew he wasn’t going to catch it but I wasn’t sure if it was going to get out. I actually didn’t even see the ball clear. I just saw when he stopped, I heard the dugout behind me so I’m like, ‘All right, I guess it’s gone.’”

He has been working on slowing things down in order to not let the moment become too much at the start of his first full big league season.

“I’m getting used to the environment, getting used to the third deck, all that stuff,” he said. “I’m really excited because I feel like my heart rate’s a little slower than it was opening day and last year, too.”

O’Hoppe’s six RBIs so far are the most for an Angels catcher in the first three games of the season and also tied for the most by any catcher in the initial three games of a campaign over the last 20 years.

“Holy MOLY,” mother Angela said via text message from back in Sayville, New York, after flying a red-eye home from the Bay Area overnight in order to teach school Monday morning.

“O’Hoppe Day,” tweeted the Angels with video of his homer, stealing a line from the catcher’s close-knit family in a play off the “Oh Happy Day” church hymn they love. The O’Hoppes even had “O’Hoppe Day” T-shirts made in celebration of O’Hoppe’s father Michael achieving remission after he fought for his life and survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from July 2021 through a stem-cell transplant early last year.

They found “HOPE” on Aug. 2, 2021 — Angela’s 50th birthday, the mom shared, from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center oncology team in New York “that it wasn’t a death sentence” after the original doctor gave Michael seven to 19 months to live.

“Words can’t describe it. Not too long ago I wasn’t sure if I’d be here,” Michael O’Hoppe said by text message Sunday. “I am here and enjoying every minute of it. Beyond grateful.”

Logan O’Hoppe later singled. He is scheduled to catch again in Monday’s series opener at Seattle, then get his first day off Tuesday with Matt Thaiss taking a turn behind the plate, manager Phil Nevin said before Sunday’s series finale. O’Hoppe, a 23rd-round draft pick by the Phillies in 2018 acquired in a trade last Aug. 2, became the youngest catcher in Angels history to start opening day Thursday at 23 years and 49 days.

“I feel like a lot of the fan base knows my family like I do now, so there are going to be a lot of tears going on,” he said. “It’ll be fun.”

Left-hander Tyler Anderson (1-0) allowed four hits, struck out four and walked two over six scoreless innings making his Angels debut after signing a three-year contract in November. He is 3-0 with a 0.48 ERA and 17 strikeouts in four career starts against the A’s.