The fascination of Ohtani – Off The Bench


As the major league baseball season kicked off in 2021, I made a specific statement; I was burned out in MLB and didn’t want to see any games this year, including the affiliate minor leagues. I had known for a few years that I was becoming more of an independent baseball fan anyway. It made sense to let the MLB slowly drift away this season. I enjoyed baseball. After all, good, fun, professional baseball that is played in other leagues, free from all of the MLB evils that have frustrated me so much. I was able to keep my word for the most part, that is, except for Shohei Ohtani.

Now I haven’t renewed my MLB TV subscription or anything like that. However, I scroll past 99% of the MLB news that makes it onto my various social media feeds, unless that news involves Ohtani. I watch every video highlight I can, read articles as they become available, and have seen the free games of the week he played. I don’t give MLB a second chance, I just continue my love affair with the best baseball player you, me or anyone else has ever seen.

I feel like Ohtani is a case where a bit of hubris is allowed for me. This is a time when I was on the train way ahead of anyone else. After all, Ohtani played baseball for my favorite Nippon Professional team, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. He did this two-way thing thousands of miles away at a time when it was myth rather than reality for most baseball fans. He has always been a larger-than-life reality only to me and others who have followed his pre-MLB career.

Seeing the best two-way player since Bullet Rogan has been a smooth ride. I’m glad the MLB journey continued. I’m not here to take on the hipster doofus role denouncing the current mainstream Ohtani because I was a huge fan before it went mainstream. Under no circumstance. I’m glad it went mainstream and everyone is seeing the same dynamic and talented ball player that I saw in Japan. I wish nothing more than that it will continue to be successful and that it will become even more mythical with every passing day.

That’s the thing with Ohtani; it is myth and reality rolled into one. We can all see what he’s doing in real time. We see the same videos, the same games, and the same highlight roles. It’s reality that is right before our eyes, but everything is so surreal. Nobody can play baseball as well as Ohtani, can they? It’s not really possible for someone to be a fantastic full-time hiller and pitcher and a great outfielder? Yet Ohtani amazes night after night and lets us see how he does things that no living fan could ever see.

I’m not saying anything new about Ohtani. Everyone now knows exactly what kind of mythical figure they have become. You know his stats, and reciting them wouldn’t do any good.

But it’s a little different for me. I was ready. I finally got rid of MLB and what happened there every day. It felt great and then Ohtani pulled me back with kicks and screams. I’m not ready to dive back into the rest of the MLB, the organization didn’t deserve my fandom. However, I have all the time in the world for a unique person like Shohei Ohtani. That’s why he’s the face of baseball, not just MLB, but baseball. The Ohtani train keeps rolling and we are all lucky enough to be there.

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