Baseball Superstar Ohtani Ranked Top Favorite Athlete in Japan Survey Third Year Running; Respondents Who Watch Baseball Also Increases from Last Year

Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani gestures while walking back to the dugout after striking out to end the top of the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Tuesday in Minneapolis.

For the third consecutive year, baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani took the top spot among favorite athletes in a recent nationwide survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The survey asked respondents to write in up to three of their favorite athletes. Ohtani came in first, far ahead of the players in second place and below. He plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers who compete in Major League Baseball (MLB).

Respondents were also asked about their favorite sport to watch, with multiple answers allowed. The number of responses citing baseball increased significantly in the latest survey compared to the one conducted last year. The results suggest that Ohtani’s success has boosted baseball’s popularity.

The number of respondents who wrote in Ohtani was 634, accounting for 31% of valid responses.

This is the highest percentage among responses for first place since the 2015 survey, which used the same methodology.

Coming in second place with 76 respondents was Kaoru Mitoma, who plays for Brighton in the Premier League — the top division of English football. Naoya Inoue, who holds super bantamweight belts from all four major world boxing organizations, came in third place with 73 respondents.

Yuki Ishikawa of the men’s national volleyball team came in fourth with 55 respondents.

Fifth-ranked Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who transferred from the Orix Buffaloes to join the Dodgers this season, moved up significantly from 25th place in last year’s survey, with 41 respondents.

Three baseball players were in the top 10, including Kazuma Okamoto of the Yomiuri Giants in eighth place with 29 respondents.

When respondents were asked what sports they like to watch, professional baseball topped the list at 45%, up from 39% last year, followed by high school baseball at 40%, up from 37% last year. Ekiden came in at 36%, down from 38%; and MLB stood at 30%, up from 19%.

The survey was conducted by mail from early February to mid-March among 3,000 randomly selected eligible voters in 250 nationwide locations. A total of 2,074 valid responses were received.