Babe Ruth set the pattern. Today, Shohei Ohtani is making history.



Not since Babe Ruth has a baseball player been able to pitch and hit at an elite level in the major leagues. Not before Shohei Ohtani, of course.

He was a star in his native Japan, playing for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters before crossing the Pacific to play for the Los Angeles Angels in 2018. Expectations for Ohtani were high, but after his promising debut was marred by injuries, no one thought he would return to have a 2021 season for the record books.

Jeff Fletcher, Los Angeles Angels drummer for the Southern California News Group, reviews Ohtani’s career so far in “Sho-time: The Inside Story of Shohei Ohtani and the Greatest Baseball Season Ever Played.”

Ohtani is considered a “unicorn”, an athlete with a rare gift. At his best as a pitcher, he throws fastballs over 100 mph. Offensively, he is able to smash 470-foot homers and steal bases with ease. All that, and he’s only 20 years old. He’s a talent unlike anything the league has seen in the modern era.

Fletcher gives a brief history of Ohtani’s early life in Japan, taking note of Ohtani’s fierce love for the game and examining the decisions that led to his jump to the American League. His reputation preceded him, thanks in part to a jaw-dropping viral YouTube video from 2016 showing Ohtani smashing a home run through the Tokyo Dome roof.

“Sho-time” is about how Ohtani narrowed down the suitors and surprised everyone by picking the Angels, who were thrilled because signing a two-way player is essentially getting two stars for the price of one. . But they were also concerned about the amount of use of him, fearing he would be hurt.

“The Angels had treated Ohtani like a fragile artifact for most of his first three major league seasons,” says Fletcher, “and you couldn’t blame them. It had been a century since anyone had been able to pitch and to hit at a high level in the majors. Even when Babe Ruth did it in 1918 and 1919, he said the physical demands were too great.

Their concern was justified. It would take two surgeries and extensive rehabilitation for Ohtani to fully return to the game after playing partial seasons in 2019 and 2020.

During the 2021 season, Ohtani silenced the whispers about his ability to be a two-way player by hitting a total of 46 homers and as a pitcher allowing an average of 3.18 runs per game – astonishing numbers, especially since he always played on the mound and at the plate in the same games. He was the silver lining to an otherwise lackluster season for the Angels, and his star power drew crowds.

Audiences are understandably curious about Ohtani’s inner world, but Fletcher’s book will do little to satisfy that desire. Ohtani’s quotes are mostly taken from his scripted responses to the media. However, Joe Maddon, the Angels’ manager during the 2021 season, is quoted in the book’s foreword as saying, “He doesn’t like to lose. At the same time, he is humble, polite and kind. There is an old school component to him.

That down-to-earth, hardworking nature sings through Fletcher’s book. Ohtani’s ill-fated 2019 and 2020 seasons demonstrate that even rising legends aren’t infallible. Perhaps even more than his raw talent, his willingness to come back from injuries is admirable.

It may seem premature to write a book about a player who is still in the early years of his career. Fletcher guides readers along the signposts of Ohtani’s ascent with thoroughness and respect. “Sho-time” serves as a mile marker in what is likely to be a prolific run. The writing doesn’t bring Ohtani’s electric game to life, but it communicates its uniqueness, which is sure to excite readers to watch a unique talent play the ball.

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