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SPORTS NOTES - SHOHEI OHTANI - Japan's New Gift to Baseball

James Loving/National Radio Text Service



Ohtani is recognized as Japan's Babe Ruth" and is earning the same title in America with his amazing start as a pitcher and hitter. Thus far he is living up to his reputation with outstanding performances as a pitcher and hitter. Indirectly his formidable feats and charisma might do more for humanity


Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Japan's Shohei Ohtani is Major League Baseball's biggest story this season as he has endeared baseball fans in America and is becoming Japan's greatest export ever in sports. During spring training Los Angels Angels management considered sending him to the minor leagues to fine tune his talents. By the time the season began the Angels reconsidered that move and haven't regretted.

Ohtani is recognized as Japan's Babe Ruth" a nickname that he earned from his career while playing in the Japanese Pacific League. Ohtani stands out because he has two way skills as a pitcher and hitter.

As a pitcher in Japan his career ERA was 2.52 and had a strikeout rate of 28.5 percent. As a batter he had a batting average of .286. He was the league's 2016 MVP.

With the Angels he performed as designated hitter when not pitching but he is also capable of playing the outfield. Thus far Ohtani has hit home runs in consecutive games and has three on the season and has one of the best batting averages on the team.

In his second pitching start he had a no hitter going as he mowed down the Oakland Athletics' first 19 batters in order through the seventh inning. He gave up a hit and the finished the inning unscathed. His performance prompted the media to refer to him as a two-way wonder.

After winning his first two games he hit a bump in the road on his third start. Prior to that game Japan media interest boomed in the 23-year-old reached a fervor pitch when the Angels PR department issued three dozen credentials to accommodate requests from the Japanese media.

Before the game a blister appeared on Ohtani's pitching hand. He lasted only two innings before being taken out and suffering his first loss of the season. Thus far on the mound, Ohtani is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA with 19 strikeouts and four walks.

Aside from his good looks his physical stature at 6'3: and 190 lbs that lends to his strength to perform as a two way player Ohtani has a presence and look that stars are made of.

He has the intangible ingredient of talent, good looks, composure and an intelligent mind that makes for stardom in Hollywood, the land of stars. Thankfully he doesn't speak English thus he can't easily be swept up into the Hollyweird bullshit of booze, sex and drugs.

Indirectly his success is contributing t the easing f racism in sports media. The fact that he is so popular and there is an increase of Japanese media now being involved, his presence and success emboldens the concept of why can't we all just get along. I say this because I've lived it.

While covering the Los Angels Dodgers they had a good Japanese player Hideo Nomo who had a career that started off like a ball of firs and then he had arm trouble resulting in a decline in his performance.

At that time there was only one Japanese reporter with a season press pass. She represented Japan's Ji Ji Press. Occasionally there was a news crew from Japan that came to America to do a story on Nomo.

A highly respected radio talk show host made up a RACIST HOAX story that the Dodgers ownership was unhappy with Nomo and his failure to learn English. The racist went so far as to have someone call in a represent himself as a friend of the then Dodgers owner.

I heard this hoax as I was driving to Dodger Stadium to cover the game. I wrote a column about it that created a firestorm reaction. The twist is I had some experience with this individual having previously worked with him at KFI radio in Los Angeles. Unfortunately it was a hoax that amused many in the LA media including a Los Angeles Times baseball columnist, a friend of the violator.

The following day that radio host sat directly behind me in the press box. When I arrived and looked him in the eye with disgust you could cut the tension with a knife. Racism has been tolerated in sports journalism for decades. It's a subject that is ignored. It is a subject I won't stand for and will call out the guilty.

Nomo eventually moved n from the Dodgers and pitched over the span of 13 seasons in the major leagues with 8 different teams, before retiring in 2008. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1995. He twice led the league in strikeouts and also threw two no-hitters,

The strange thing is the Dodgers history is that they are the first team to break the MLB's racist color line by signing the league's first black player Jackie Robinson. The team also went on to sign several black players with the first two others Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe.

Here's the twist interest in Ohtani being the first player since Babe Ruth attempting to hit and pitch has been staggering but the Dodgers Newcombe was also a there at the plate being used as a pinch hitter. Newcombe was the first pitcher to win the Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Cy Young award in his career.He had a career batting average of .271 with 15 home runs. He was a member f the Dodgers World Series Championship team in 1955.

His other achievement, that will never be duplicated, is Newcombe pitched the entire nine innings of two games of a doubleheader and WON BOTH GAMES against the Philadelphia Phillies. When I interviewed him he brought that accomplishment up and I informed him that I knew about it BECAUSE I WAS THERE.

The bottom line is there are some similarities with all of these players but unfortunately racism in one. Though times have changed the racist attitudes remain. Hopefully Shohei Ohtani without his intention can indirectly contribute to easing the RACISM problem and bring people together.


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