Shohei Ohtani, who is headed to Los Angeles, gave a big farewell on Monday to the fans of his former team in Japan as he embarks on another chapter as a professional baseball player joining the Los Angeles Angels of Major League Baseball.
The star hitter and pitcher wore an Angels’ jersey during a news conference. He opened the conference with an intro in English by saying he was Shohei Ohtani and welcome to his press conference. At that point, the crowd at the Sapporo Dome erupted in applause and laughter.
For the last five seasons, Ohtani has called the dome his home, playing with the Nippon Ham Fighters. He hopes to be a starting pitcher for the Angels as well as an everyday hitter.
Bringing Japan’s version of Babe Ruth to the states could help to inspire more creatively in the majors for using different players regularly as both pitchers and hitters.
Ohtani, the reigning MVP in the Pacific League, threw a final pitch from the mound of the Sapporo Dome on Monday.
He spurned other offers form major league teams to join the Angels and Mike Trout a young, two-time winner of the MVP and veteran slugger Albert Pujols. Los Angeles has had two straight losing seasons and has not won a game in the playoffs since 2009.
The Japanese star finished 3-2 with an ERA of 3.20 while being slowed down by ankle and thigh injuries. However, those numbers do not indicate his potential to be a pitcher as his fastball has been clocked at over 100 mph.
Scouts have been divided on the ability of Ohtani to consistently hit pitching in the bigs. In 65 games, he hit .332 with 8 home runs and 31 runs batted this past season, occasionally hitting tape measure homers that captivated his prospective teams.
In 2016, Ohtani finished with a batting average of .322, 22 homers, 67 RBIs across 104 games. During the same season, he finished 10-4 with an ERA of 1.86.
Ohtani hopes to chart a rare path with his baseball career, as the first regular two-way player in the majors in several decades. He had drawn comparisons to the late Babe Ruth who was both excellent as a hitter and pitcher.
The plan the Angels have is to use Ohtani both at pitcher and hitter said the 23-year old on Monday and he said he was confident of succeeding in both.