Game 121 // First Inning, Anaheim // The Age of Ohtani

BOTTOM OF THE FIRST: ANGELS 6 (0) – 2 INDIANS

 

This league is in desperate need of a superstar.

A household name. A neighborhood name, a village name, a national name. From California to New York Island. From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters.

This land was made for Shohei Ohtani.

We all saw what he did tonight. If you didn’t, well, see it here:

 

 

Gone. Way gone. First-date jitters with the Angels faithful collected, held in, filtered through some calibrated machinery housed in his torso, converted into bat speed, into hand-eye coordinates, released into the most exciting home run that ballpark might see all summer.

In the last week, making his American debut:

Ohtani won his first game on the mound. He got his first hit, DHing on Opening Day. A two-way player of the Babe Ruth mold. A 6’4” Mothra-esque force of nature from Japan.

Now, he’s at home. Up with two men on. One-run lead. First inning. First home at-bat. In the inning the Angels front office dreamed up four months ago.

“Lower the home-run line,” one of them said. So they did. Eighteen feet down to eight, in right-center.

“Sign the most exciting international player anyone’s seen in a decade,” they said. They did.

They sit back, waiting to become as fun as the Dodgers. Day two of the new experiment. Seeing their mad concoction come to life. Trout with a first inning drive just over the lowered yellow line.

 

 

Now Ohtani coming up, draped in an aura of hype. Number 17. Tall, athletic, strong. Heroic looking, almost fake—as if every cheat code were entered at once, and the video game gods tossed in ten more.

“This place would go bonkers if he left the yard…” they say on the broadcast.

He steps in, after several balls fouls off down the line. Tomlin throws a hanging curveball.

Ohtani reaches down, flashes his hands through the zone, and connects. A golf swing cracking a pop through the air, the ball going high, high, and down—into the second row in right-center. Gone. Ohtani rounding third with his hand on his helmet, with the biggest, the coolest of strides.

Richie Sexson length with Griffey Jr. bounce.

He comes back in the dugout to the silent treatment. No reaction, no love. “Did you see what I did? Did you see what I did?” He tugs on the jersey of Luis Valbuena.

No one gives him the time of day. Waiting, ignoring. Waiting.

 

 

Then, they break. A mob grabs him, hugs him, mussing his hair.

“We know what you did,” they say. “And we know what you’ll do.” 

Ohtani steps out of the dugout, tips his helmet to crowd, no one yet taken a seat.

“You’re making baseball must-watch again,” the entire park says, in a sea of smiles.

 

 

What do you do when you see something that cool?

You listen to cool music. You dream in a language of cool.

You become nostalgic, already, for something that just happened a moment ago.

 

 

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