Just like a movie script, fate would have it that the two teammates would meet as enemies in the final scene to decide the ending. There could only be one winner and it was Japan’s Shohei Ohtani who announced himself as one of the nation’s biggest stars.
On came the countdown for pitcher and batter at the top of the ninth inning, which already had two outs. Then, Shohei Ohtnai, who like the chosen ones had been reserved to close out Japan’s game from the mound, unleashed a disconcerting sweeper, one of those poisonous pitches with an accentuated sideways drop that began to be fashionable last year among Major League pitchers.
Outfielder Mike Trout, Ohtani’s teammate in the Los Angeles Angels, failed to notice the swerve effect of the ball very close to the pitching area. Ohtani’s sweeper traveled at 87.2 miles per hour and left Trout, who minutes earlier had seen the Japanese put Jeff McNeil and Mookie Betts out of the game with a double to kill him, swinging.
It was the 27th out of the final of the V World Classic and the consecration of Japan, who with a 2-3 triumph extended their undefeated record as the maximum winner of the World Classic with three titles, and at the expense of the champion of the last edition.
Ohtani was the star of the night, but his teammate Trout, on this occasion his rival, has a much larger salary. The American at 31 years of age has a net worth of 140 million dollars, and the Japanese star, three years younger, has 15 million, according to specialized media.
While in 2019 Trout signed a 10-year contract extension in exchange for 360 million dollars and a net salary of 35.4 million, the best in the Major Leagues, Ohtani is studying the path he will take next season with no lack of suitors.
Journalists agree that at least a dozen teams would be willing to entice the Japanese player with a 450-million-dollar contract, and that the bidding could even reach 500 million.
The best of the World Classic
The mass phenomenon encouraged almost half of Japan to turn in front of their TV sets to watch every game of the Samurai in the tournament, according to audience figures. In figures, some 62.5 million of the country’s 125 million people followed their national team religiously.
Ohtani, who will turn 29 on July 5, was proclaimed the best player of the 2023 World Baseball Classic. During the celebration on the lawn of IoanDepot Park in Miami, the home of the Marins, Hideki Kuriyama‘s men also paid tribute to an old acquaintance of that venue, pitcher Ichiro Suzuki, who was instrumental in the two-time Japanese championship.
Shohei Ohtani has no ceiling at the moment. To give you an idea, half the Miami stadium was Japanese and everyone had come for Ohtani, a mass phenomenon like boxer Naoya Inoue, only in the case of the baseball player, he also has the American continent at his feet.
And they are devoted to him, among other things because he is achieving statistics that have not been seen since the mythical Babe Ruth. Not just big in Japan, he could be a worldwide all-time great.