The festivities around MLB’s All-Star Game provide players from around the league with an opportunity to showcase their skills on a more national stage.
For Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani, it’s a chance to highlight everything that has led to him beginning the face of the league.
On July 12, he’ll take the field as the top seed for the 2021 Home Run Derby, entering the All-Star Break with 33 home runs through 301 at-bats.
A day later, he’ll be in the American League batting order as a designated hitter, leading things off when the All-Star Game goes live from Coors Field in Colorado.
Once that half inning is over, he’ll head to the mound as the American League’s starting pitcher after going 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA and 87 strikeouts through his first 13 starts of 2021.
It’s a busy two-day stretch, one that Angels manager Joe Maddon had to sign off on, for one of the league’s premier players. But, that’s the type of effort and attention that’s required of a superstar in the making.
Per Angels beat writer Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times, Ohtani admitted that he would probably be exhausted for the All-Star Game a day after the Home Run Derby, but “a lot of people want to watch it, so I want to make them happy.”
“This is what the fans want to see,” Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, who is managing the American League in the 2021 All-Star Game, said.
Unfortunately for Ohtani, other news popped up during that two-day stretch, as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith voiced his opinions about the All-Star Break’s home run king on First Take, just a few hours before the Home Run Derby.
“When you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube or to the ballpark to actually watch you, I don’t think it helps that the number one face is a dude that needs an interpreter so you can understand what the hell he’s saying,” Smith said.
Smith later put out a video of his own on Twitter, saying that people were misunderstanding what he said.
“My segment on Ohtani this morning on First Take, people are misinterpreting what I’m saying,” Smith explained. “Baseball is a great game, a great sport. Some of the greatest players are foreign players. [Fernando Tatis Jr.] comes to my mind, I love this brother and what he brings to the table. And Ohtani is the second coming of Babe Ruth, okay. But that’s not what I was trying to say.”
“I’m talking about the marketability and the promotion of the sport,” Smith continued. “If you are a sport trying to ingratiate yourself with the American public the way Major League Baseball is, because of the problems you’ve been having to deal with in terms of improving the attractiveness of the sport, it helps if you spoke the English language. It doesn’t mean anything more than that.”
Baseball analysts and fans didn’t take too kindly to Smith’s comments, explaining that Ohtani’s success makes him must-watch TV.
“I couldn’t care less if Ohtani needs an interpreter,” MLB Network’s Robert Flores wrote on Twitter. “It doesn’t stop me from stopping what I’m doing every time he’s on my screen.”
Ohtani’s on-the-field ability has transcended the sport of baseball since he debuted in 2018, and he has taken over multi-time league MVP Mike Trout’s spot as the must-see member of the Angels roster.
He lets his talent do the talking for him, and his ability to showcase his personality, through an interpreter or not, is an added bonus that is welcomed by fans around the world.
Add in everything it took for Ohtani to even get to the majors, and it’s all that much more impressive.
No matter what language he speaks, or what language you speak, it should be pretty easy to understand why Shohei Ohtani is the face of Major League Baseball.