Shohei Ohtani Trivia
by Tetsuhiro Nakagawa
If you're interested in Major League Baseball, you've undoubtedly heard of Shohei Ohtani. If you haven’t, he's the hottest player in the MLB right now. He has hit the most home runs in the league so far this season and throws a ball over 100 mph. He is the first real two-way player since Babe Ruth in the Major Leagues and Ted Radcliffe and Charles Rogan in the Negro Leagues. Here is some trivia about him.
1. Where He is From
He was born in Oshu City, Iwate Prefecture in northeastern Japan. He went to Hanamaki Higashi High School, which is a powerhouse in the Japanese high school baseball world. Incidentally, it is the same high school as Yusei Kikuchi, the Japanese left-handed pitcher of the Seattle Mariners, though they were three years apart and never played together on the same high school team.
His father worked as an employee of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, and played on the company's baseball team. After moving to Iwate Prefecture, Ohtani’s father served as a coach and manager for his elementary and junior high school teams. His mother was a badminton player and went to the national tournament as a student. Shohei has a brother who is seven years older and a sister who is two years older.
3. High School and After
While competing at the Iwate Prefecture tournament in the summer of his 3rd year in high school, he became the first amateur player in Japanese baseball history to throw a 100 miles per hour pitch.
After graduating from high school, he announced that he would strive to join the MLB instead of going on to Japanese professional baseball. This is a very unusual decision, as almost all Japanese baseball players have played several years in the NPB before joining the MLB. In the end, however, he was persuaded by the manager of the Hokkaido-based Nippon Ham Fighters to join the team. The number the Fighters gave him was "11," the same number that Yu Darvish of the San Diego Padres had worn.
4. “Goal-achievement Sheet”
In his high school years, he created a goal-achievement sheet in which he set eight goals, including "body building," "control," and "speed of 100 MPH," in order to achieve his main aim of being selected first in the draft by eight teams. One of the eight goals also included "(gaining) luck." In order to achieve this state of "luck," goals such as "picking up trash," "offering greetings," and "having a good attitude toward umpires" were set. He says that by picking up trash, he is "picking up luck."
5. Two-way player
Playing two-way is called "Nito-ryu (Two-swords style)" in Japanese. It is derived from a school of Japanese swordsmanship founded by Miyamoto Musashi, a master swordsman in the early Edo period. It means fighting with two swords, or in baseball, playing on one hand as a batter and the other as a pitcher. You may perhaps be surprised to learn that this word is used completely naturally among the Japanese when describing Ohtani. In terms of the sound and profound meaning of the word, I think it is the perfect one to describe Ohtani, who is exploring his own unique path as an athlete.
6. Pitcher or Hitter
There were different opinions in the Japanese baseball world when Ohtani crossed the ocean to become a major leaguer. While some gave a shout-out for his passion to compete two-way, others contended that he should give up playing two-way and concentrate on pitching, while others argued that he should concentrate on hitting. Ichiro, who played for the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees, said, "There are a lot of great pitchers out there. But a hitter like him doesn't come along very often.” Knowing better than anyone else the grueling MLB game schedule, Ichiro seemed to recommend that Ohtani concentrate on hitting.
7. Final Thoughts
Shohei Ohtani is currently 27 years old. With the excitement we've seen from him this season, and the many more golden years that we can expect him to continue playing at this high caliber, there will surely be more impressive performances to come. I, for one, will continue enjoying watching him play baseball and cheering him on.