Ohtani made his pitching debut on Sunday
On Thursday, he went 1-for-5 as a DH
He was on the road Sunday, but it didn’t matter. The buzz still was palpable in Oakland, California, as 14,644 fans turned up at the ballpark to see the rookie known as the Japanese Babe Ruth.
They steadied their cell phones to get images of him, while others held up his Los Angeles Angels jersey and signs written in Japanese.
According to MLB.com, 240 members of the Japanese media were in attendance. Fans tuned in from Japan local time at 5 a.m.
For Shohei Ohtani, it was showtime.
In elite company
It’s been estimated that Ohtani’s value could be worth as much as $200 million, though the Angels are only paying the Japanese star the league-minimum salary of $545,000 per year due to the MLB’s collective bargaining rules.
Ohtani, however, did pocket a one-time signing bonus of $2.3 million.
While the cameras clicked and mobile phones were trained on Ohtani, the 23-year-old member of the Angels, who had made his major league debut on Thursday as a designated hitter, took the pitching mound for his first major league start.
Ohtani is attempting to do what many think is impossible: play in Major League Baseball doing both.
On Thursday, Ohtani singled in his first at-bat, going 1-for-5 at the plate. He joined Hideki Matsui, Kaz Matsui, Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Kosuke Fukudome as Japanese-born players with a hit on Opening Day in their first MLB at-bat.
Then came Sunday, putting Ohtani in some elite company.
He became the first Major League player to start as a non-pitcher on Opening Day and then start as a pitcher within his team’s first 10 games since Ruth – the most famous two-way player of all – did it with the Boston Red Sox in 1919.
And after Ruth, it’s been a rare occurrence.
The last time a player started as a pitcher and a non-pitcher in the first 10 games of a season was 1920, when both Joe Bush (Red Sox) and Clarence Mitchell (Dodgers) started as pitchers and outfielders. The last player to start as a pitcher and a non-pitcher within the same season was Rick Rhoden with the Yankees in 1988 (30 starts as pitcher, one as DH).
“He was attacking the hitters”
Ohtani got off to a rough start against the Athletics, giving up three hits, including a three-run home run to Matt Chapman, in the second inning.
“After that three-run shot, (Angels manager Mike) Scioscia came up to me and said I’m doing fine,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “Don’t let them score from here on out.”
And Ohtani settled down. In all, he allowed three runs and three hits with one walk in six innings, striking out six. At times, his speed got up to 100 miles per hour on the radar gun.
“I knew he was going to have a good one because the way he was throwing the ball was amazing,” Angels catcher Martin Maldonado said. “He was attacking the hitters.”
Ohtani earned his first win as the Angels came out on top, 7-4.
“Obviously I’m very happy, satisfied with my outing,” Ohtani said. “But more than that, happy the team got the victory.”
On this day, at least, he lived up to the hype.