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BASEBALL | Shohei Ohtani Named the First Two-Way Player in MLB All-Star Game History

“Even the non-baseball fan can really latch onto this and become interested.” ーLos Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon

Ed Odeven

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Another day, another special achievement for Shohei Ohtani.

The Los Angeles Angels dynamo became the first player in Major League Baseball history to be selected to play multiple positions in the same All-Star Game.

On Sunday, July 4, Ohtani was named to the American League All-Star squad’s 13-man pitching corps.

Three days earlier, it was announced that fans chose Ohtani to be the AL’s starting designated hitter for the All-Star Game on July 13 at Coors Field in Denver.

The full list of 2021 MLB All-Star starters and reserves is posted here.

The first MLB All-Star Game was held on July 6, 1993, at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The AL adopted the designated hitter in 1973, removing pitchers’ batting duties.

Before Ohtani’s big night in the spotlight, he will also be the first Japanese player to compete in the Home Run Derby on July 12.

Angels manager Joe Maddon said he’s pleased that MLB fans and the general public will have a chance to Ohtani showcase his skills at the 91st All-Star Game, noting it’s a unique opportunity for the sport to appeal to a bigger audience, The Associated Press reported. (The 2020 Midsummer Classic was canceled due to the global pandemic.)

Maddon summed it up by saying, “even the non-baseball fan can really latch onto this and become interested.”

Joining Ohtani on the AL squad for next week’s All-Star Game will be left-hander Yusei Kikuchi of the Seattle Mariners. San Diego Padres hurler Yu Darvish was named to the National League All-Star team.

Darvish (7-3, 2.65 ERA) and Kikuchi (6-3, 3.18) are fifth- and first-time All-Star selections, respectively.

Ohtani is 3-1 in 12 starts with a 3.60 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 60 innings.

Pitching selections were made by players, coaches and managers in each league.

Matching Matsui’s Home-Run Total

As the Angels’ irreplaceable DH, Ohtani is batting .278 with an MLB-leading 31 home runs, including a jaw-dropping 14 in his last 17 games, and 67 RBIs through July 4.

Ohtani’s 31st homer, a 459-foot (a nearly 139-meter) solo blast in the third inning off Thomas Eshelman on July 4, tied former New York Yankees star Hideki Matsui’s single-season record for a Japanese player. Matsui walloped 31 homers in 159 games in 2004. Ohtani reached 31 in game No. 82, and the Angels defeated the visiting Baltimore Orioles 6-5.

After the game, Ohtani discussed his exceptional play of late at the plate and the satisfaction that comes from matching one of Matsui’s big accomplishments.

“I’m really excited to be at the same level with somebody I looked up to since I was young,” Ohtani, a first-time MLB All-Star, was quoted as saying by The Associated Press through a translator. “However, it’s still the first half [of the season], so like I’ve said before, I want to continue to build up one hit at a time.”

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Author:  Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays,  in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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Ed Odeven is a longtime sports journalist who previously worked for The Japan Times as its chief basketball reporter for nearly 14 years. He also covered a wide range of other sports for the newspaper, including at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Games. A graduate of Arizona State University, Odeven worked for several newspapers in the Grand Canyon State before moving to Japan. He has freelanced for dozens of media outlets around the world.