Shohei Ohtani is ‘in his own world’ … which appears to be somewhere beyond baseball’s outer limits – The Athletic

Posted: July 2, 2021 at 1:54 am

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Ah! Summer grasses! All that remains Of the warriors dreams Matsuo Bash

In the summer of 1889, Japanese poet Masaoka Shiki brought baseball to his hometown. He started with a ball, a bat and a few friends. It had been 17 years since the American professor Horace Wilson began teaching the sport to students in Tokyo. Shiki was a college student, a member of the first generation of Japanese ballplayers. He soon became famous for something else: reviving the old poetry tradition of haiku.

In simple terms, Shiki was an iconoclast, a critic, an ambitious writer who pulled from Western influences, challenged convention, pushed limits and reinvented haiku in the process. He was also a baseball player, one who loved to pitch and play catcher, who became so obsessed with the sport that he began to write poetry about it. Today he is considered one of Japans four great haiku masters. Hes also in the Japanese baseball hall of fame. He elevated two art forms by thrusting them forward.

Before Shiki died at age 34, he devoted much of his energy into examining the first haiku master, Matsuo Bash, a 17th-century poet recognized as Japans greatest. Like many Japanese writers, Shiki read Bashs masterpiece, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a travelogue of his journey into the remote wilderness of northeast Japan in the late 1600s. Its a legendary piece of Japanese literature, a work that later inspired the Beat Generation. Bash traveled on foot. The trip took five months. Along the way, he ventured to the town of Hiraizumi, in what is now Iwate Prefecture, still a rural area in the north.

If you travel to Iwate today, you will find statues of Bash, tributes to his journey and inscriptions of his haikus. But if you stay a while, you will also find baseball.

Its where Shohei Ohtani grew up.

On April 26, Shohei Ohtani did something that no one had done in a century: He stepped on a pitchers mound and started a game for the Angels while leading the American League in homers. Ohtani was the first to accomplish this since Babe Ruth, who pulled it off for the last time on June 13, 1921, but as always with Ohtani, the fine print was more fascinating than the headline. The day before, on April 25, he put a baseball into orbit in Houston, launching a 440-foot homer at Minute Maid Park. The day before that,he homered while making his first cameo in left field. And the dayafterhis start, he was back in the lineup at designated hitter.

But on the day he started? That was light work. He collected two hits, drove in two runs, scored three times, lasted five innings on the mound, struck out out nine and earned the win, which made him the first pitcher in either league to have two hits, three runs and nine strikeouts since Luis Tiant in 1967. A pretty complete game of baseball, Angels manager Joe Maddon said, a statement which was both technically correct and underscored the difficulty of capturing the Ohtani experience with words.

One hundred and forty years after Horace Wilson brought baseball to Japan, 131 years after Masaoka Shiki crafted his first poetic tribute, and a hundred years (give or take) after Ruth cemented the game as Americas pastime, Ohtani, a 26-year-old from Iwate Prefecture, is threatening to break the sport, to push the limits of what was thought possible, to redefine our conception of a baseball star. This is at once obvious to the baseball layman and also hard to fully grip. Ohtani is 6 feet 4, and he looks as if his bodily proportions were designed for blueprints in a baseball laboratory. His frame could fit in a Terminator movie. He throws 101 mph and he hits 470-foot homers, sometimes on the same night. And after three seasons in America, after Tommy John surgery and a pandemic slowed his ascent, he is finally showing the skill set that made him the most tantalizing baseball prospect on earth.

If he is not the most valuable player in the sport, he is no doubt the most gifted. If he were just a hitter or just a pitcher, he would still be an All-Star candidate and a hero in his home country. But he is both, a composite sketch of the sports great players, a borrower of styles, a surrealists idea of a baseball player, a starting pitcher with a 2.58 ERA in 11 starts and a designated hitter with 28 homers and an OPS+ north of 170. He is a cartoon character out of Japanese anime. He is the big kid from Little League. He is ruthlessly efficient with his body, at once mechanically sound and graceful, wielding a bat as if Bryce Harper grew up worshiping the elegance of Ichiro Suzuki.

Justin Upton, a teammate on the Angels who has spent five seasons playing with Mike Trout, has deemed Ohtani the most talented player Ive ever seen. Mets starter Marcus Stroman called him a mythical legend in human form, while Kevin Durant stopped a torrid NBA playoff run to weigh in. Different breed, he tweeted. Leury Garca, a White Sox utility player who watched Ohtani terrorize his club in April, offered more subtle praise: Oh, he nasty.

Rick Ankiel, one of the few men in recorded history who has made the major leagues as a pitcher and a hitter (though, notably, not at the same time) describes Ohtani as being in his own world, as far as ability. Joe Maddon, his manager, notes day after day: Nobody has ever done this before.

Ohtani is the type of player who strains the imagination and inspires wonder among his fellow players. He also raises philosophical questions about the future of his sport: Is he the first of a new and rare superstar archetype (once in a generation, perhaps?)? Or, is he a unicorn? Is he the latest master in a proud Japanese baseball tradition based on endless training and self-sacrifice? Or, is he reinventing the form? And, finally, there is a question for us, the audience:

Is it possible to properly appreciate something weve never seen before?

Before Shohei Ohtani came along, the last Japanese professional player to be an All-Star as a pitcher and hitter was Junzo Sekine. He was a wisp of a human, 5 feet 7 and 130 pounds, an avatar for many Japanese players of his day. In the spring of 1966, he traveled to the United States and spent a month with the Yankees at spring training. He wanted to learn a new culture.

Sekine had started his career as a pitcher for the Kintetsu Pearls (later the Buffaloes) in 1950. He spent seven seasons on the mound, transitioned to first base, and became something like the Rick Ankiel of 1950s Japan. He was solid at both roles, fundamentally sound and productive, but it was his versatility that impressed. When his career ended, he dreamed of managing, so he sought knowledge from the best baseball franchise in the world, the club that had produced Babe Ruth, the original two-way standard.

When compared to its American counterpart, Japanese baseball remains a culture unto itself, a thriving system with its own history, traditions and beauty, a sport that did not change the locals so much as bent to their will. When the game first arrived in the late 1800s, the Japanese had no concept of recreational leisure sports. They didnt even have words to describe them. Every thing was a martial art, says Robert Whiting, a Tokyo-based author who has chronicled Japanese baseball for decades.

Japanese baseball, then, came to be influenced bybushid, the moral code of honor developed by the samurai warrior class. As it spread, the sport grew as a tool for education. It was regimented and militaristic, a game that taught lessons in suffering and sacrifice, a reflection of the society it had charmed. A century later, as Ohtani came of age in Iwate, the old influences remained softened, of course, by modern advances and progressive attitudes but still vital to the endeavor.

Sekine had grown up in that culture in the 1930s and 40s, immersed in the philosophy of unending practice daily training, thousands of swings, hundreds of pitches during one bullpen session. Still, there was one thing in common with the major leagues: nobody dared to pitch andhit at the same time.

This was mostly because of the hellish demands on pitchers. In the 1950s and 60s, Japanese hurlers undertook extraordinary workloads, even by the standards of the day. Hiroshi Gondo, a pitcher for Chunichi, threw a record 429 innings in 1961, inspiring the Japanese version of Spahn and Sain and pray for rain. (It included more rain and more Gondo.) As Whiting says, The pitchers threw so much that it was unrealistic to expect them to do anything else.

The Japanese adored Babe Ruth. He had visited the country during a goodwill tour in 1934. The locals packed stadiums and shouted Banzai Babe Ruth! But they did not have an analog for him; there were no two-way legends who transcended the sport. Of course, if the Japanese would have studied Ruths career, they would have noted that even the Babe found playing both ways to be a hindrance. Ruth managed to log double duty for parts of only two seasons with the Red Sox, in 1918 and 1919 (with some later mound cameos for the Yankees). Waite Hoyt, a teammate in Boston and New York, would call Ruths 1919 season the year of the Great Experiment. Newspapers debated his role. The year before, Ruth had expressed doubts that anyone could do both.

I dont think a man can pitch in his regular turn, and play every other game at some other position, and keep that pace year after year, Ruth told the writer F.C. Lane of Baseball Magazine in late 1918. I can do it this season all right, and not feel it, for I am young and strong and dont mind the work. But I wouldnt guarantee to do it for many seasons.

Ruth was sold to the Yankees before the 1920 season and became a full-time slugger. And for the next hundred years, his prophecy largely proved true. (There were a collection of two-way stars in the Negro Leagues, including Charles Wilber Bullet Rogan and Ted Double Duty Radcliffe.)

Baseball evolved. Specialization reigned. The game grew on both sides of the Pacific. Hideo Nomo arrived stateside. The Japanese pipeline opened. Ichiro Suzuki started a revolution. The best kids in Japan came of age thinking about the major leagues. Then one day in the early 2010s, an executive from an American League team traveled to watch a high school star named Shohei Ohtani compete in Koshien, the countrys legendary national high school baseball tournament. Koshien is March Madness plus Friday Night Lights times 10. Ohtani was tall and lean and he threw 99 mph. He told reporters that he wanted to bypass the Japanese professional league Nippon Professional Baseball and head to America.

In the mind of the scout, Ohtani was one of the best Japanese pitching prospects in years. Like most high school stars, he was also a position player with intriguing bat speed and power. But the scout believed his future was on the mound.

I didnt think of him doing both, he says.

Then again, why would he? Nobody had tried in a century. Was it even possible? At least one person believed it was: Ohtani.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then the genuine fear of losing a homegrown prodigy to the United States helped birth Ohtani as a two-way player. The Nippon-Ham Fighters, one of the savviest organizations in Japanese baseball, had a plan. First, they would show Ohtani an unvarnished look at life as a minor leaguer. Then, they would convince him that he could do both. He didnt need to choose. Ohtani imagined a career without limits, his potential dictated only by his level of devotion and work. Soon, the scout returned to Japan for another trip and watched Ohtani take batting practice. He came away with one thought:

This guy is a f hitter.

On April 4, the fourth day of the 2021 baseball season, Shohei Ohtani was a hitter. He was also a pitcher. In the top of the first, he faced the Chicago White Sox and hurled a fastball 101 mph. In the bottom half, he stepped to the plate, loaded his hands, uncoiled his hips and unleashed his barrel on a belt-high fastball. The crack sounded like a bomb, as if someone had taken a sledgehammer to a tone block or tossed a rocking chair off a roof. (If you watch the replay once, theres a 100 percent chance you will watch it again.) The baseball soared 451 feet into the night sky. Ohtani, the first pitcher to bat second in the lineup since 1903, looked almost princely as he circled the bases.

Lefty Gomez once described Ruths homers as homing pigeons. The famous Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh produced a beautiful crack withhandmadetamo-wood bats. And the legendary scout Buck ONeil once said that only Ruth, Josh Gibson and Bo Jackson could generate a sound likethat.But there remains something different about the sound that emanates from Ohtanis bat. For one, it is loud. It is also perfectly toned, the crack of the kind of textured percussion that usually demands headphones. And on the night of April 4, it was so loud that some viewers assumed it must have been enhanced by ESPNs Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.

Phil Orlins, ESPNs lead producer for its MLB coverage, assures that it was not. The sound was natural. As Ohtani swung at a high fastball from the White Soxs Dylan Cease, the high-speed collision of ball and bat was picked up by four wireless mics buried in front of home plate at Angel Stadium. It was then transmitted to a production truck, added to the broadcasts sound mix, and sent out to viewers across the country. Exactly the way it sounds if youre standing by the batting cage during BP, Orlins says.

Ohtani, of course, tends toward the maximal. When Brad Ausmus managed the Angels during the 2019 season, hed tell people to arrive early to watch Ohtani hit batting practice. It wasnt just the sound, and it wasnt just the distance, though Ohtani often put balls into the far reaches of Angel Stadium. It was the height. His power seems to have tremendous upward trajectory, almost like Darryl Strawberry, Ausmus says. He hits the ball 200 feet straight up in the air, and it goes 450 feet out.

Ohtani showed glimpses of this power as a rookie in 2018, hitting 22 homers while making 82 starts at DH, and again in 2019, as he recovered from Tommy John surgery and was limited to hitting. But after struggling in the shortened 2020 season (Ohtani called his own play pathetic), he is becoming the hitter that Ausmus saw, a technical marvel of leverage and energy transfer.

To watch Ohtani swing a bat is to see a hitter who has mastered the two most important elements of the craft: technical expertise and creative genius the science and the art. Ohtani has what master swordsmen call edge alignment, the ability to guide his weapon to the baseball at the ideal angle to maximize power and distance. He also has the ability to improvise.

Ausmus began his career playing with Tony Gwynn in San Diego and finished it playing alongside Manny Ramirez with the Dodgers. Gwynn was a modern-day Ted Williams, a man who understood the mechanics of the swing better than anyone of his generation. Ramirez was a physical virtuoso; hitting was his craft. Ohtani, Ausmus says, is somehow both at once.

When Ohtani was a rookie, Albert Pujols would watch his young teammate smash balls over the center-field batters eye, then pass along bullish scouting reports to Ankiel, his former teammate with the Cardinals. (Is it real? Ankiel remembers asking. Its everything and more, Pujols said.) Four years later, Ohtani is on pace to hit 57 homers after smashing three more in two days at Yankee Stadium. His latest power binge included a 117.2-mph blast on Monday the hardest homer of his career and 20 of his 28 homers have been struck with an exit velocity of more than 105 mph and a launch angle above 20 degrees. He leads the majors in that category, meaning nobody combines distance and height quite like Ohtani.

Its majestic, Ausmus says.

Its Ruthian.

When Ohtani was a boy in Iwate, he idolized Ichiro Suzuki and attempted to emulate him. When he joined the Nippon-Ham Fighters in 2013, he studied video of Bryce Harper, which indirectly meant he was studying the swing of Ruth, who had borrowed from Shoeless Joe Jackson and spurred the original launch-angle revolution. The connection between Ruth and Harper was drawn in 2013, when, according to the Washington Post, then-Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu studied footage of both players side by side. Identical, he told the newspaper.

To watch Ohtani is to see the same foundation the stiff front leg, the hands loading and the hips unwinding, the back foot lifting off the ground. He is not a perfect copy of Harper; duringspring training in 2018, Ohtani visited Ichiro, who suggested he lose the big leg kick he developed in Japan. He replaced it with a simple toe tap.

Ohtani has always been a blender of styles. When he was a teenage rookie with the Fighters, he peppered veteran pitcher Bobby Keppel with questions about the United States, culling information about major-league competition and the craft of pitching. When former Marlins outfielder Jeremy Hermida arrived in 2015, Ohtani quizzed him about the culture of the big leagues, the stadiums, the logistics, the lifestyle. You could tell in his mind, he had a goal, Keppel says.

The Fighters employed an interpreter and liaison for its American players. Ippei Mizuhara had grown up in Southern California and spent his childhood near Angel Stadium. For Ohtani, he offered a window to American baseball, a go-between who translated conversations with the former major leaguers on the roster. (When Ohtani chose the Angels, Mizuhara came with him.) Keppel remembered Ohtani as very polite and reserved. He was a teenager who took the time to learn Spanish phrases to connect with the Cuban players on the Fighters roster. Michael Crotta, another former major-league pitcher, likened his young teammate to Paul Bunyan. Hermida would watch bullpen sessions and batting practice and sum up the experience like this: The most natural juice Ive ever seen.

It was easy to see where Ohtani was headed. In 2016, his fourth season with the Fighters, he hit .322 with 22 homers in 382 plate appearances while posting a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings. It was more impressive to see the path he took. He was a machine, Crotta says. Before the game, he would throw a 100-pitch bullpen and jump right into a grueling, eight-minute batting practice. (In Japan, BP is timed, not based on swings.) In pregame pitchers meetings, Ohtani would sit with Crotta and Luis Mendoza, another former big leaguer, and offer the notes hed taken on each opposing hitter.

He was not afraid to speak about what he was doing or how he found success or where he struggled, Crotta says. At 18, I dont know if I would have had the stones to stand up in front of a bunch of guys and tell them how I felt about stuff.

Ohtanis studiousness his habit of taking notes and writing things down had been honed in high school, when he starred at Hanamaki Higashi High School in Iwate. Hanamaki Higashi is not a natural hotbed for baseball superstars. By Japanese standards, its considered somewhat rural, located 300 miles north of Tokyo and away from the countrys biggest population centers. The winters are harsh. When Ohtani was at the school, the baseball program led by coach Hiroshi Sasaki reflected the discipline and ideals of the old ways. Players lived in dorms and were assigned a list of chores. Training was intense.

Sasaki, however, also focused on individual growth and progressive training tools. One example: The pitchers used a swimming program to build strength and flexibility. Another: Sasaki adopted the Harada Method, a self-improvement technique, asking his players to write down their goals and list strategies to achieve them, to envision next week, next month, and where they wanted to be at age 25 or 30.

He just has a philosophy of how to coach and how to teach young boys about life, says Ema Ryan Yamazaki, a filmmaker who followed the Hanamaki Higashi program for one season in 2018 for a documentary about Koshien.

As a sophomore in high school, Ohtani set a goal to throw 99 mph (160 kilometers per hour) and sketched out a road map to get there. (According to a copy of Ohtanis high school goals obtained by the Wall Street Journal, Ohtani wrote of having a cool head and hot passion. One strategy was more straightforward: Read books.) He brought his inquisitiveness to professional baseball, where he focused on self improvement, day by day, and crafted another plan to better himself. He was a pitcher and a hitter, and he would do both until he couldnt anymore. He did everything he could to make that plan come true, Crotta says.

By 2015, Ohtani was the Fighters best starter and a part-time position player whose talent was apparent. He was also just 20, which meant he still dressed in the secondary locker room, a small nook adjacent to the weight room, where the youngest players were stuck until they gained more experience.

He just never complained, Hermida says. Never nothing. He couldnt have been more humble, more nice, smile on his face every day.

Baseball was his life, and he ate, slept, breathed baseball. Everything about it was training. How can I get better? How can I do better?

Its possible that no player in baseball was more prepared for a quarantine. When Ohtani was with the Fighters, he lived in a spartan dormitory in Hokkaido. After joining the Angels, he moved into an apartment complex across the parking lot from the stadium. There are many ways to analyze Ohtanis insistence on efficiency and convenience, but one thing is clear: The man does not require much space. Former Angels general manager Billy Eppler once compared a younger Ohtani to Ivan Drago, the shredded Russian villain from Rocky IV, which seemed less about his physical prowess and more about his single-minded focus toward training. If Ohtani has built a brand around his talent and in Japan, its an astonishingly large brand it is one built on a simple tenet: A wholesome commitment to baseball with all his being.

He wants to be the greatest baseball player ever, Ausmus said. So he does everything he can to try and achieve that goal.

Ohtanis stoicism extends to his movement patterns or lack thereof. There is no shortage of social avenues in nearby Los Angeles. He waited until 2020 to get his drivers license. His temperament also colors his interviews. On June 8, Ohtani hit his 17th homer, a 470-foot moonshot against the Royals in Anaheim. His response to the Japanese press corps: Im glad I was able to start things on a good note with a home run.

When Ohtani debuted in 2018, reporters mined for illustrative anecdotes. They have mostly come up empty. The list of revelations includes this: Ohtani turned to video games as a way to bond with teammates. He sang a passable version of Despacito on the team bus. He took to cooking, setting a routine that was as exciting as his regimented training: One omelet, every morning. (As Ohtani told the Kyodo News in 2018, he also found virtue in solitude. You can eat quickly when you eat alone, he said.)

Whiting, whose seminal book, You Gotta Have Wa, explores the relationship between baseball and Japanese society, has described Ohtani as a baseballing monk, a happy warrior who smiles while being checked for sticky stuff. In this way, he is something close to the ideal Japanese player, a purist whose adherence to tradition causes you to see the sport in an entirely different fashion. He represents everything thats good about the Japanese approach to baseball, Whiting says.

Ohtani is so famous in Japan that earlier this season the Royals (and a few other teams) sold in-stadium signage to Nishikawa Co., a bedding company that is touting its 455th (!) anniversary. To explain his presence in Japanese culture, Yamazaki reaches into another phenomenon, the world of Japanese comics, otherwise known as manga. Hes one of those people that could be out of those stories, she says.

Yamazaki is currently filming a project in a Tokyo elementary school, where Ohtani Angels T-shirts are the unofficial school uniform. But to understand the love affair, you have to understand what Ohtani is not. He is not Ichiro, an outfielder with a dancers build, who conjured a style out of speed, contact and otherworldly coordination. He is not solely a dominant pitcher in the mold of Nomo, Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish. He is everything, all at once, a physical marvel and a thinking man, a supreme talent and a grunt worker, a pitcher and a hitter, and it is no small thing that he is often one of the biggest players on the field.

I think thats a huge source of pride for Japanese people as well, she says. Hes kind of like an American version of a Japanese player.

The young grass kids get together To hit a ball

Masaoka Shiki

On June 16, in the hours after Ohtani homered for a second straight night in Oakland, Angels manager Joe Maddon found his star on the flight home. Ohtani was set to pitch against the Tigers the next night. Maddon wanted to make sure he felt good enough to hit.

Ohtani said yes. His legs felt good. The next day, he allowed one run in six innings while drawing two walks himself. He then returned to the lineup the next day and hit two more homers, which started another Ohtani Stretch, a sequence of baseball that, in any other era in the last 100 years, would have sounded made up. Ohtani homered again in the final two games of the four-game series against the Tigers, which gave him six homers in a six-game stretch, the only non-homer game coming as he lowered his ERA to 2.70. (In a previous Ohtani Stretch, earlier in June, he became the first player in the modern era to strike out 10 batters and the next day hit a homer in the first inning.) Every day, Ohtani does something that feels like it might break the coding system at Baseball-Reference. Every day, Maddon is having conversations that no American League manager has had in 100 years. This is a unique athlete, and none of us have been there before, Maddon says.

When Ohtani was a rookie, the Angels outlined a schedule that roughly approximated his workload in Japan, where he threw once a week and often took days off before and after his starting pitching assignments. Now those rules are gone. Ohtani is playing nearly every day and letting his body dictate the rest. Maddon has no preconceived notions on what is too much or too little Its observational and conversational, he says and there are no metrics or numbers to use as guideposts. I dont really think theres a math equation thats going to tell us when its the right time to use him, Maddon added.

Still, Maddon has exercised caution at times, because Ohtani is doing something thats never been done, and there is no roadmap or script to follow. When the Angels have played in National League parks, Ohtani has sat, because thats what a designated hitter would do. When Ohtani exited after six innings and 78 pitches against the Tigers on June 16, Maddon put the decision in a grander context.

Its still June, he said, and I want this guy to have one of the greatest seasons ever.

If you combined his contributions on both sides of the ball and his underrated speed Ohtani leads all major leaguers with 5.7 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference. He is slugging nearly .700 while opposing hitters slug just .314 against him. Absent Mike Trout, who remains out with a calf strain, he has kept his team on the far fringes of wild-card contention though Angels fans know better than anyone the limits of one brilliant superstar across 162 games.

When the Angels played in Kansas City in April, Royals catcher Salvador Prez teased Trout about his long reign as the best player in the world, which suddenly seemed in peril. Now its maybe 50-50, Perez said. Because now youve got Ohtani. The debates about the MVP award or Ohtanis value as a two-way player tend to miss an important point. Ohtani is not just measuring himself against Trout or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Jacob deGrom or anyone else with a valid case as the best player in baseball. Hes battling 100 years of baseball dogma. When Rick Ankiel was a young pitcher, before he flamed out and revived his career as a slugging outfielder, he once asked Cardinals manager Tony La Russa if he could get some playing time in the field. Were still trying to win, La Russa said. You know that, right?

Of course, there have always been players like Ankiel, pitchers who could hit, or hitters with great arms, players like John Olerud and Dave Winfield and Ken Brett and all the way back to Stan Musial, who signed his first professional contract as a pitcher, to Junzo Sekine, who willed himself to be a solid hitter when he could no longer pitch. There will be more, too, and it seems possible that Ohtani has changed the game, that teams will be more open to accommodating phenoms, that the demands on pitchers are less, that we will see more two-way players in the not-so-distant future. Shohei has opened the doors to do both, Ausmus says. But youre going to have look 10 years down the road.

Or maybe longer.

Once in 50 years, another general manager said.

To do what Ohtani is doing requires something more than sheer athletic talent. It requires more than an arm that can throw 100 mph and a swing that can launch baseballs 450 feet. It requires a player who will embrace the struggle, who craves the suffering that accompanies the work, who enjoys the solitude of a night alone, who keeps binders full of notes and asks questions and commits himself to baseball with all his being, who in the words of former Angels GM Billy Eppler has one thing on his mind.

He wants mastery, he once said, and hes going to stop at nothing.

In the end, in this moment and the next, there is only one Shohei Ohtani.

The Athletics Fabian Ardaya and Andy McCullough contributed to this report.

(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic / Getty Images)

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