Shohei Ohtani’s First Game in Japan in Over 5 Years Sees Him Usurp MLB Stars’ Popularity in Just 1 Week

Published 03/09/2023, 7:30 AM EST

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Shohei Ohtani is a superstar, an icon, and a legend in the making. If one were to ask his hordes of fans to describe him, they would probably only hear unintelligible screaming. That’s just how popular the Japanese pro baseballer is. Looks aside, the 28-year-old is something the likes of which Major League Baseball has never seen before when it comes to popularity and craze among fans.

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As talented with a ball in his hand as he is in the batter’s box, Ohtani is baseball’s savior, a force on the field for his rivals, and the envy of his teammates. If that’s unbelievable, just look at his performance in June 2021. The Angels’ star hit five homers and led his team to a win, all in the same week. It was the first time this had been done in 100 years and skyrocketed Ohtani’s popularity even more. As if to punctuate the point, he went out on the sixth day and hit yet another home run.

No wonder his hometown dedicated a day each month to celebrate the phenomenon that is Sho-time.

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Shohei Ohtani is on his way to global stardom before the age of 30

At his performance during the ongoing World Baseball Classic, fans have fallen flat at Ohtani’s sheer talent. Playing for his country after five long years, the Japanese were excited to see their beloved player return to play. And aside from cheers in the stadium, people showered love on Ohtani on social media too.

Writer Joe Pompliano reported that in the last week alone, the two-way star gained over 400,000 followers and counting on Instagram. He is now the most followed MLB player on the app, despite his sparse posting. Instagram would have one believe that constant posting, engagement, etc. is what counts towards gaining a following, but who needs the algorithm when you’ve got fame as Sho-time does?

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And as if this madness wasn’t enough, Ohtani has become the poster child for modern-day Japan. His hometown is certainly sparing no effort to cause more of a buzz for the player.

Oshu City now has Ohtani’s hand replica as well as rice paddy field art

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Oshu city is leaving no stone unturned, as it makes sure every person who passes the town knows the name Shohei Ohtani. From a cheer squad to a giant likeness on a rice paddy field, there have even been snow sculptures of the baseball unicorn in Japan. A metal replica from before the 28-year-old left for the States allows passing tourists to shake Ohtani’s hand.

Celebrating the Angels star’s jersey number 17, every month’s 17th day is Ohtani Day. Katsuyoshi Ohkoshi, the head of Oshu city’s City Promotion Division, told Mark Monagan of MLB.com, “The mayor also participates on Ohtani Day. Even if there are public affairs or public appearances on the 17th, he’ll make sure he has the red and 17 on. Personally, he’s always checking his stats and following what Ohtani has been doing.”

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WATCH THIS STORY – Japanese Two-Way Baseball Star Shohei Ohtani Hits 100th Major League Homer

Maybe the U.S. needs one of those too!

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Written by:

Arunima Bhanot

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Arunima Bhanot is an MLB writer at EssentiallySports. Having earned an English literature degree from Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi, Arunima has always been interested in writing. She's a fan of archery and was the captain of her college team for two years running. She's an avid reader who also loves photography and travel, and you can find her talking constantly about books and anime on her Instagram!
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Edited by:

Abhishek Kumar

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