Shohei Ohtani Once Rejected the Angels’ Rivals Dodgers Because of His Babe Ruth Aspirations

Published 11/20/2023, 11:55 AM EST

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Shohei Ohtani made his entry on the fields of MLB on a sunny December afternoon, six years ago. In just a matter of months, he displayed his grit by breaking a longstanding MLB record when he hit his nineteenth homer for the Los Angeles Angels on the seventh of September, 2018. This marked the biggest home run record made by a Japanese rookie in MLB’s history. In the same season, he struck out 63 in 51.2 innings pitched. It makes sense why he is recognized as the world’s greatest baseball player, doesn’t it?

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Ohtani received his second unanimous American League MVP award on November 15, 2023. However, that couldn’t have happened if he had not turned down the approach made by the Los Angeles Dodgers almost a decade ago. His avid pitching and hitting style has garnered him the nickname “Two-Way Ohtani”. Becoming exceptional in two of baseball’s most sought-after skills might seem like a play of fate; however, that is not the case when it comes to Ohtani. The Japanese ace seemingly decided to be the best at both, much like the legendary Babe Ruth, and he stuck with that resolve on his trip to the USA.

Childhood prodigy Ohtani turned down the Dodgers to pursue Two-Way goals

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“I watched baseball players and they looked so cool,” Ohtani reminisced to a SportsNet representative. Ohtani used to believe that there were better players than him playing in the local and school tournaments; that’s the reason why he didn’t think of participating in them for a long time. His belief proved to be wrong when he started playing for Hanamaki Higashi High School’s baseball team. At 16 years of age, he was throwing balls in the mid-90s.

No wonder teams like the Dodgers started taking notice of him early on. They reportedly pursued him in 2012, six years before his MLB debut. Ohtani turned them down because he was focused on perfecting his two-way form before stepping onto the MLB scene. He ultimately chose to play with the Angels because they gave him the space and opportunity to hone his skills further on the diamond.

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Shotime is a complete five-tool player by the books, but many fans like to recognize him as a six-tool slugger, owing to an extra tool in his bag—pitching. Shotime reportedly told Jim Allen, columnist for Kyodo News, Japan, that not being a two-way player was never an option for him. “It’s not like ‘I really want to be a pitcher and hit, or that I am a batter who also pitches,’” the slugger told Allen. “That’s not it. I want to do both.”. And oh, how he stuck with that airtight resolution of his!

Shohei Ohtani, the second coming of Babe Ruth

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The professional baseball industry has seldom seen a two-way player like Shohei Ohtani in two centuries of existence. His form is often compared to the reigning years of Babe Ruth on the field. Yes, there have been instances of other sluggers playing for both the offense and defense sides of their teams before. But few of them became an embodiment of absolute perfection and versatility like Shohei Ohtani has.

But he’s named baseball’s unicorn for a reason – in 2023, Ohtani led the AL with 44 home runs and maintained a steady 3.14 ERA. Not to mention, he played both sides of the ball without too many rest days off.

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Currently held off by elbow surgery, Ohtani is predicted to get back on the field in full form by 2025. Here’s to wishing the Japanese slugger a career full of breaking records and setting new ones!

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Written by:

Shrabana Sengupta

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One take at a time

"Those who gaze outward dream, but those who turn inward awaken." A pro-writer for MLB EssentiallySports, I’ve been a fan of the New York Yankees since my school days. In my adolescent years, I was introduced to the iconic franchise through one of my beloved Friends characters, Joey.
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Edited by:

Arunima Bhanot

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