‘Simply thankful’ Shohei Ohtani calls MLB All-Star Game the most memorable experience of his career

DENVER – He wasn’t voted the MVP, that honor went to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

He didn’t produce a hit, or perhaps get the ball out of the infield in 2 plate looks.

He pitched a 1-2-3 inning, however didn’t strike anybody out.

It made no distinction.

The night, with the American League winning the All-Star Video game, 5-2, for the 8th successive year Tuesday night at Coors Field, still came from Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels.

Ohtani, the winning pitcher with his one inning of work, was quickly the most significant and biggest star, no matter what package rating might check out in the record of All-Star Video game history.

He got the loudest ovations by the sellout crowd of 49,184.

He got the most awards and homages from his colleagues.

And nobody came close to signing more autographs.

There might have been All-Stars all over the field, however just one was the focal point. The gamers pertained to Ohtani’s locker in waves desiring him to sign jerseys. Baseballs. Photos. Bats. You call the product, Ohtani was signing it.

Every All-Star gamer, no matter how young or knowledgeable, will permanently keep in mind the night they shared with Ohtani.

“I sort of felt bad for him,’’ stated Chicago White Sox All-Star more detailed Liam Hendricks, who maintained Ohtani’s triumph with his conserve. “Obviously, I got a ball signed by him. I might feel bad, however I’m not a moron.

“He was absolutely doing more than your typical individual, however I believe everyone’s in awe of what he’s able to do.’’

Ohtani’s response?

He kept smiling, kept finalizing, and in fact thanked his fellow All-Stars for even desiring his sign.

Shohei Ohtani delivers a pitch in the first inning.

Shohei Ohtani provides a pitch in the very first inning.

“What Shohei is doing is amazingly outstanding,’’ Hendriks stated, “however the most crucial thing I’ve acknowledged speaking to Shohei is that no matter what he does on the field, he’s a much better person. I imply he’s one of the best individuals I’ve ever spoken with in my life.

“He’s about as simple and thoughtful as they come. …The skill he has, and the buzz surrounding him, I can’t fathom the capability he needs to shrug it off. He doesn’t press individuals away. He’s simply himself.’’

Who else would in fact decrease an invite to appear in the interview space, and merely perform interviews outside in the corridor, not wishing to eliminate the spotlight from anybody else?

It was nearly as if he was humiliated by all of the awards and ovations he got.

“I was merely happy,’’ Ohtani states, “for all the cheers and assistance I got.’’

He was the pitcher who drew the oohs and aahs with his back-to-back 100-mph fastballs versus Nolan Arenado because very first inning, the fastest pitches he has actually tossed because his very first start of the season.

“I was just tossing one inning,’’ shrugged Ohtani.

He was even cheered extremely for his 2 groundouts, one hit smack into the shift.

“I constantly struck it best to them in the shift,’’ Ohtani stated, chuckling.

Ohtani who got here into town Sunday night feeling fresh, leaves Denver entirely tired, however, he still couldn’t stop smiling throughout his 72-hour binge.

“Absolutely it was a lot more strenuous compared to the routine season,’’ Ohtani states, “however I had a good time.’’

Let’s see, he struck 6 crowning achievement over 500 feet in the Crowning achievement Derby on Monday night, taking Juan Soto to double overtime, prior to heading out in the preliminary.

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He grounded out to 2nd baseman Adam Frazier in the very first inning.

He went to the mound and retired all 3 batters he dealt with, tossing 6 of 14 pitches at 97-mph or much faster.

He grounded out to very first baseman Freddie Freeman in the 3rd inning.

And he invested the 4th inning standing outside the American League clubhouse, surrounded by more than 100 press reporters, stating how he had the outright time of his life.

“I believe up until now [in my career],’’ Ohtani stated, “this has actually been the very best experience, the most remarkable.’’

He fidgeted, however felt right away accepted strolling into the American League All-Star clubhouse, flanked by his heroes he viewed maturing in Japan, consisting of Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.

“Prior to I talked with them,’’ Ohtani stated, “they were sort of frightening. Once I talked with them, everybody was all terrific. I had a great time meeting everybody.’’

You kidding?

They were ecstatic meeting Ohtani.

“We were all asking for his autograph,’’ Minnesota Twins All-Star DH Nelson Cruz said. “I got two autograph pictures myself.’’

The Hall of Fame Baseball Museum did even better.

They received his All-Star game cleats, hand guard and foot guard.

The All-Stars spent all weekend marveling over Ohtani, unable to fathom how he’s leading the majors leagues with 33 homers and slugging percentage .698, striking out 11.69 batters per nine innings as a pitcher, and hitting the longest home runs in the Home Run Derby.

Says Yankees All-Star pitcher Gerrit Cole: “It’s just so marvelous to watch. He’s showing anything’s possible.’’

If anyone saw this coming, it was Daike Obara, who has known Ohtani since they were eight years old. They grew up together, played baseball together, and were on the same high school baseball team together at Hanamaki Higashi High School in Iwate, Japan.

Obara even has a video on his cell phone showing Ohtani hit a towering home run at the age of 11, remembering the game that Ohtani once hit four homers off him.

Now, he knows the most popular man in all of Japan, wondering how in the world he could even walk the streets in Japan this winter without being swarmed by fans.

“It’s going to be crazy,’’ Obara tells USA TODAY Sports. “There’s no one bigger in Japan. Every morning in Japan, the day starts with Shohei. Their game is ending by the time we wake up, so everybody turns on the TV and the internet to see how Shohei did. And then everyone spends the day talking about him.’’

And, oh, how they will have someone to talk about Wednesday morning knowing that Ohtani made history by becoming the first player to start a game as a pitcher and a position player.

You’ve got to be awfully special for MLB to change the rules just for him, permitting Ohtani to stay in the game as a DH even after leaving the game as a pitcher following the first inning.

“This was the biggest game in Japan since the ’64 Tokyo Olympics,’’ Obara stated. “It means so much to everyone back home.’’

It just adds to the legend, Obara says, even topping that moment at their high-school dormitory when Ohtani woke up late. He rushed out, but at 6-foot-4, his head slammed into the lower door frame.

Ohtani was just fine, and kept running out.

The door frame was completely cracked.

“The crack in that door frame is still there,’’ Obara says. “‘It’s almost an historical landmark now.’’

The legend is just getting started.

“He’s creating the wave, right?’’ Yankees starter Gerrit Cole says. “He’s in front of the wake. I’m a dreamer. People looking up to Shohei, and seeing how he’s been able to do it and blow past expectations, proves that anything is possible.’’

Says Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike Zunino, who homered in the video game: “The guy can do it all. It’s crazy.’’

So, go ahead and be disappointed that Ohtani didn’t win the Home Run Derby. Feel unfulfilled that you didn’t see him hit a homer in the All-Star Game, let alone hit a ball out of the infield. Be upset that you didn’t see a single strikeout.

But everyone who was in attendance this night should also remember they saw living, breathing history, a first-time All-Star whose talent could forever change the game.

“The expectations on him are a little higher than your average person,’’ Hendriks said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think anybody fathoms the toll on his body, that not only what the Home Run Derby takes, but also pitching an inning and striking.

“I don’t think it goes through people’s minds at how tough actually everything is. It’s something special.’’

Oh, is it ever.

“We are all,’’ AL manager Kevin Cash said, “in awe of his ability. I appreciate what he’s done for our game, and our fans. There’s a lot of stuff that we’re coming out of with the pandemic, and his talent …has actually been a big part of getting baseball going again.’’

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This article originally appeared on U.S.A. TODAY: Shohei Ohtani ‘simply thankful’ for MLB All-Star Video game experience

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.