Shohei Ohtani is the whole show, and he welcomes the idea.
After a thoroughly historic season by any measure of the word, the two-way Angels superstar almost instantly surpassed his teammate Mike Trout to become the preeminent (and somewhat mythical) “face of baseball” in 2021.
Ohtani, winner of the Sporting News Player of the Year 2021 award, the 2021 Athlete of the Year award, also added a unanimous AL MVP selection for his efforts on the field. Those awards join his 2018 Rookie of the Year award on the mantle.
It may be intangible, but it seems like “baseball face” means more to the star.
Talking about a long feature in GQOhtani weighed in on his position to become the face of baseball, adding that he welcomes the burden that comes with being the sport’s greatest ambassador:
More than pressure. I am really happy to hear that. It’s what I came here for, to be the best player I can be. And hearing “the face of baseball” is very welcoming to me and gives me more motivation for, because I’ve just had, this was my first really good year. And it’s only one year. So it gives me more motivation to keep it up and have more great years.
Among other things, Ohtani addressed nonsensical criticism from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who in July said Ohtani’s lack of understanding of English somehow damaged the sport more than it helped his game on the field.
I mean, if I could speak English, I would speak English. Of course I would like to. Obviously it wouldn’t hurt to be able to speak English. There would only be positive things to come from that. But I came here to play baseball, at the end of the day, and I felt that my game on the field could be my way of communicating with the people, with the fans. That’s all I really took from it in the end.
Ohtani’s 2021 season was one of the best in the history of the sport. At the plate, Ohtani hit 46 home runs with a .965 OPS. On the rubber, he started 23 games, pitching a 3.18 ERA in 130 innings.
The phenomenon’s performance in 2021 firmly places it in a unique category. Now, it’s 1 of 1 like the face of sport.