The Korean baseball team is very interested in Shohei Ohtani (29, LA Angels).
Ohtani is one of the major league (MLB) superstars participating in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) scheduled for March. This is the first time that Ohtani, who missed the 4th tournament in 2017 due to a right ankle injury, is participating in the WBC. At the WBC national team press conference held on the 6th, he revealed his aspirations, saying, “I am only thinking about winning, aiming only to win.” Japan baseball team coach Hideki Kuriyama has not confirmed the final entry for the WBC 30, but has announced the list of 12 key players, including Ohtani, first.
Ohtani is currently the only player in the MLB who is both a pitcher and a hitter. He won 9 games as a pitcher and hit 46 home runs as a hitter in 2021, and was named the American League Most Valuable Player (MVP). Last season, his home runs were reduced to 34, but he won 15 wins as a pitcher, becoming the first player since Babe Ruth (13 wins, 11 home runs) in 1918 to achieve both double-digit wins and double-digit home runs in one season.
Although he is a world-class player representing Japanese baseball, there are not many Ohtani lovers in international competitions. After his professional debut, the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier 12 is the only time he has been to ‘Samurai Japan’.
The Korean baseball team was in an emergency. For the national team, which belongs to Group B in the first round of the WBC along with Japan, Ohtani’s joining is bound to be burdensome. In a situation where star players such as Yu Darvish (San Diego Padres), Yoshinobu Yamamoto (Orix Buffaloes), and Rocky Sasaki (Chiba Lotte Marines) were all on the field, Ohtani’s addition made it to the top. Even if he does not pitch as a pitcher, there is a high possibility of appearing as a designated hitter, so it is expected that the match between Korea and Japan will be mixed depending on whether Ohtani is captured.
Choi Ji-man (Pittsburgh Pirates), who faced Ohtani in MLB, said, “He is a very good player and his ball is really fast. It is important for players to adapt quickly.” Based on Fangraph.com, a site specializing in MLB records, Ohtani’s average speed of fastballs last season was 93.9 miles (151.1 km/h). Here, the slider, forkball, changeup, curve, etc. are used freely. He is 1m93cm tall and has a sharp curve.
Since he is a major star representing MLB, there are not a few voices hoping for a confrontation. Pitcher Koo Chang-mo 메이저놀이터 raised his voice, saying, “There are so many great players (in the WBC), and among them, I want to face Ohtani the most. I’m looking forward to it.” Pitcher Gwak Bin (Doosan Bears) expressed his desire, saying, “It’s okay to hit a home run, so I want to play with Ohtani, my idol.” The words of the players are awe-inspiring. Kim Yun-sik (LG Twins) expected, “I want to see Ohtani, Darvish, and Clayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers) pitch a lot up close.”
Song Jae-woo, MLB commentator, said, “It is natural for (players) to pay attention to Ohtani. That is why he is a superstar representing MLB. Even if he does not pitch, he is threatening when he enters the plate. I think the players will be very interested in which pitcher, Ohtani or Darvish, will start in the game against Korea.”
Ohtani is wary of Korea. Korea and Japan competed fiercely in every international competition. If they beat each other again, they can be optimistic about advancing to the second round. Ohtani said, “(Korea) has many excellent players. In Asia as well as in the world, there are many outstanding players both as batters and pitchers.” He plays great baseball.”