Shohei Ohtani Becomes 1st Japanese Player to Earn AL Home Run Title

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 23, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) hits a two-run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at Angel Stadium.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels’ two-way star Shohei Ohtani continues to make history.

This time, it was for becoming the first Japanese player to win a major league home run title, leading the American League with 44 as the regular season came to a close on Sunday.

Despite missing 27 games due to injuries, Ohtani had five more home runs than second-place Adolis Garcia of the Texas Rangers.

Ohtani was awarded the AL Rookie of the Year in 2018 and was unanimously voted the league MVP in 2021, but this is his first individual title for pitching or hitting.

In June, he hit a team record 15 homers in one month, tying the June AL home run record for the first time in 62 years.

His pitching season ended on Aug. 23 as a result of a torn elbow ligament but continued hitting through Sept. 3 until an oblique strain took him out for the season. Ohtani underwent elbow surgery on Sept. 19 but is expected to be ready to hit some long balls in 2024 and throw some fastballs the following season.

Excitement crosses Pacific

Ohtani fans all over Japan were overjoyed to hear the news.

“I saw Ohtani play in the U.S. a few years ago, but back then, I never imagined that a Japanese player would become the home run king,” said a 34-year-old man from Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. “It’s so exciting to hear. It’s just unreal.”

A 19-year-old university student from Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, said: “It’s amazing that Ohtani was able to get those numbers while pitching, too. I sincerely have so much respect for him as a fan.”

The student said he has been a fan of Ohtani since his Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters days.

“I was worried about Ohtani because he got injured, but I’m so happy to hear the good news,” said a 57-year-old woman from Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture. “I’m looking forward to his comeback and excited to see him pitch again.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno also joined in and praised Ohtani’s achievements at a press conference on Monday.

“It’s a great accomplishment to become the home run champ while also being a pitcher,” Matsuno said. “We’re very happy about the great news.”

Marutake Sangyo Co., the company that made the kabuto helmet used by the Angels to celebrate home runs, was delighted by the news.

“It’s a really big honor for us as the manufacturer that he was able to wear our kabuto so many times,” said company President Tomotaka Tanoue.