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Shohei Ohtani strengthens the role of baseball's biggest attraction in the All-Star debut
Shohei Ohtani strengthens the role of baseball's biggest attraction in the All-Star debut

Shohei Ohtani strengthens the role of baseball’s biggest attraction in the All-Star debut

They cheered their own, hometown applause for Colorado Rockies boss Bud Black and shortstop Trevor Story, and a fierce welcome back to form Rockies star Nolan Arenado.

They bauded players from the Yankees and Dodgers, mocks even Chris Taylor for his place in an evil large marketing team.

However, for almost all other players introduced at the start of Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game, the reception was routine.

For just one other player, 49,184 in Coors Field made an exception, roaring to life at the announcement of a more specific name.

“Leader of,” Fox broadcaster Joe Buck announced over the stadium’s address system, “the chosen hitter and starting pitcher: Shohei Ohtani! ”

Suddenly, as the Angels’ two-way star flashed across the video card, warming up in the bullpen in preparation for his first All-Star game appearance, a crowded ballpark went.

If there was ever any doubt about Ohtani’s place, popularity and influence in the sport, this week’s festivities would have provided a moment to calm them down.

During the first half of this season, Ohtani has become one of the biggest attractions in baseball. And this week he looked like a natural in the role, calm and confident and said and did all the right things.

He participated in Monday’s homemade derbyand exhausted himself in an epic defeat against Juan Soto in the first round. He went on “Purple Carpet” before Tuesday’s match and made TV appearances after TV appearances that led up to the first pitch.

The first player in MLB history to be selected for an All-Star game as a pitcher and hitter, he also did in the midsummer classic, founding twice as an American League starting designated hitter and throwing a perfect first half as the team’s pitcher and hit 100 mph in a game for the first time in three months.

He called it the “most memorable” moment of his MLB career so far – “obviously I’ve never played in the playoffs yet, or the World Series,” he remarked, adding “when I do, it’s likely to surpass it” – and said he even got nervous about being around so many other greats in the sport.

“Before I talked to them, they were a little scary,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “But when I first got to talk to them, everyone was great.”

Ohtani’s companies this week came amid controversial comments from ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith, who on Monday criticized Ohtani’s use of an interpreter. Smith later apologized, but not before his statements resonated around the sport, bringing the baseball world to Ohtani’s side.

A fan of Shohei Ohtani watches during the batting practice before the MLB All-Star game.

A fan of Shohei Ohtani watches during the batting practice before the MLB All-Star game on Tuesday in Denver.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Ohtani did not address Smith’s comments directly, but spoke on Tuesday about his hopes of helping the game grow.

In response to a question about the “Ohtani mania” that spans the sports world, he said: “I love it. But if more people watch baseball, it makes me happy, and it’s good for the sport.”

He acknowledged how much more tiring this week was compared to his usual workload in the regular season, but added: “If everyone had fun, then I’m good at it.”

Ohtani’s performance on Tuesday may not have matched the drama of the derby the day before, but his two-way appearance alone was the source of more history.

He was only the fourth starting pitcher in All-Star game history to also take two bats, and the first pitcher of any kind to hit the record in the game since Roy Halladay in 2009.

He also became the first player in any game (regular season, post-season or All-Star) in the modern era of baseball (since 1901) to be the starting pitcher, starting in the leadership game of the slogan and earning the winning decision.

And if that wasn’t enough, there were testimonies of his talents throughout the day as well.

Arenado, San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and Dodger’s first baseman Max Muncy – who all played outs in Ohtani’s pointless first half – each used the word “incredible” to describe the 27-year-old super talent.

AL manager Kevin Cash, who helped the league literally change the rules of Tuesday’s game so that Ohtani could remain in the slogan after his pitching trip was complete, said in his post-game press conference: “The way he has handled everything makes it so much more special. ”

And even Angels teammate Jared Walsh – who went 0 for 2 but had a key move in the left field with the bases loaded in the eighth inning – was amazed at how Ohtani embraced the spotlight.

“On the bench, it occurred to me how many directions he is being pulled right now,” Walsh said. “I know he was very well. But man, he has a lot on his shoulders. ”

Not that he seems to have any trouble carrying it.

“It was definitely more fun than nervous,” Ohtani said, adding: “Just grateful for all the cheering and all the support I get.”

Angels star Shohei Ohtani talks about competing in the home derby, playing in the MLB All-Star game and watching his legions of fans.

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