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 28-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 Were Athletes Too
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
— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) April 1, 2018
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.
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."
— ?????? (@deepredthread) May 10, 2018
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.
— Jack Harris (@Jack_A_Harris) May 9, 2021
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's Incredible Evolution
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. He's won an American League MVP. He's won a Rookie of the Year award. He's been an All-Star three times. He's participated in the Home Run Derby. All while hitting and pitching at extremely high levels.
The scary thing is he's getting better, and his prime might be yet to come. In 2023, as of writing, he leads all of baseball in home runs (30), slugging percentage (.666), OPS (1.057) and WAR (6.1). He's well on his way to a second MVP, and a third one would put him in the company of Trout, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and more.
The sky's the limit for Shohei Ohtani, and he can thank his parents for raising a humble superstar.
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