Baseball fans were blessed in 2021 with the emergence of Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani as one of the sport's most exciting figures. The Japanese superstar draws comparisons to the great Babe Ruth for his uncanny ability to pitch and hit at an extremely high level. But, in truth, he's stolen the hearts of baseball fans for his palpable love for the game and his fun-loving attitude. Shohei Ohtani is the perfect baseball hero, both on the field and off.
The 27-year-old is loving life in the United States after coming over from Japan in 2018. It took a short while for him to find his footing, but he's beginning to look every part of the advertised player.
Ohtani's natural athletic ability and passion for baseball is believed to come from his parents, who are surely beaming ear-to-ear regarding their son's success.
Shohei Ohtani's Parents
Ohtani was lively from a young age.
"He would actively engage in whatever he was interested in. He was a child who would try anything. If you didn't take care to watch him, it was dangerous."
Pic: Shohei with his dad during a kindergarten sports day?#???? #ShoheiOhtani pic.twitter.com/LuVLMyONfp
— ??????????????????????? (@deepredthread) May 10, 2018
The @BallySportWest broadcast has been showing photos of players and their moms today ... which has led us to this young Shohei Ohtani gem pic.twitter.com/gLXWELexiz
— Jack Harris (@Jack_A_Harris) May 9, 2021
Shohei Ohtani's parents were in attendance today, just like they were on opening day when he got a hit in his first plate appearance. pic.twitter.com/YqeeEiKldl
— ?????? ????? (@FlyByKnite) April 1, 2018
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Not a great deal is known about the parents of Shohei Ohtani.
Shohei was born in 1994 in Oshu, Japan, to his father Toru Otani and his mother Kayoko Otani. Toru was a baseball player in his own right, having played in the outfield for a corporate-sponsored non-professional baseball team. Kayoko, on the other hand, was a badminton player. Ohtani's older brother Ryuta Otani was also a non-professional baseball player. He has one other sibling named Yuka.
Toru said young Shohei was never afraid to try new things.
"He would actively engage in whatever he was interested in. He was a child who would try anything," he told Japanese newspaper The Mainichi. "If you didn't take care to watch him, it was dangerous."
Shohei began playing baseball at a young age, and his father trained him in the sport. Ohtani went on to play baseball at Hanamaki Higashi High School in Northern Japan's Iwate Prefecture, which lies roughly three hours from Tokyo.
In high school, Ohtani showcased his worth as a baseball pitcher, managing to reach 100 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball at the age of 18. He threw the recorded pitch at the Summer Koshien, a Japanese national high school baseball tournament.
Ohtani's parents made the 5,000-mile trip to watch his MLB debut in 2018. He made it well worth their time, because he gifted them the ball of his first hit, one that is sure to increase in value as he does the unthinkable in the states.
"Since my parents are here, might as well give it to them," he told Yahoo! Sports in 2018.
That was just the start of "Sho Time."
Shohei Ohtani Baseball Career
Ohtani formerly played Nippon Professional Baseball, where he played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters as both an outfielder, pitcher and designated hitter.
He spent five years becoming one of the most legendary players in NPB history and attracting the attention of MLB teams across the globe. The Japanese pitcher recorded impressive numbers in Japan, hitting 48 home runs and driving in 166 RBIs with his bat while also managing a 2.69 ERA and 651 strikeouts across 92 career pitching appearances.
He won the Japan Series, which is Japanese baseball's version of the World Series. He was a Best Nine award winner, as well as the Pacific League MVP. Ohtani was also a member of the Japanese National Team at the U-18 level.
When Ohtani made his intentions to join Major League Baseball clear, virtually every team in the league was eager to make a pitch for the Japanese sensation. Despite interest from powerhouses such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Seattle Mariners, Ohtani decided to join the Los Angeles Angels, where he now plays alongside MLB superstar Mike Trout.
Since becoming a Major League Baseball player, the spotlight has been on for the two-way star. Ohtani made ten starts during his rookie season, earning four wins and recording a 3.31 ERA. He added 22 home runs and 61 RBIs with the lumber that year.
His second season in the league saw him used solely as a batter. He slashed .286/.343/.505 in 2019 across 106 games and 384 at-bats. His 2020 campaign was cut short after he suffered a forearm strain, in addition to dealing with blisters. He made just two starts that season and hit in 46 games.
The Angels were hoping for a bounce-back season in 2021, and that's exactly what they got. Ohtani skyrocketed to superstar status. "Sho Time" took over the All-Star Game in 2021, becoming the first player ever to start the game as a pitcher and hitter. He took the mound and batted leadoff for the American League. Oh, and he was in the Home Run Derby the night prior.
Ohtani has already captured the single-season record for most home runs by a Japanese-born player after launching 33 homers in the first half of the year. Hideki Matsui held the previous record, a player Ohtani has great respect for. Additionally, Ohtani maintained a 3.76 ERA and struck out 87 batters across 67 innings of work.
All of those accolades propelled Shohei to his first American League MVP Award. And while it may be early to say he'll win more than one, it's certainly not out of the realm of possibilities. Winning an MVP is one thing, but Angels fans would probably love a World Series title even more. But that's something Shohei's working on too.
The sky's the limit for Shohei Ohtani, and he can thank his parents for raising a humble superstar.
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