A monster!” The great baseball hitter who hit 536 homers in all reveals the “real awesomeness” of WBC No. 1, Shohei Ohtani. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

A monster!” The great baseball hitter who hit 536 homers in all reveals the “real awesomeness” of WBC No. 1, Shohei Ohtani.

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Ohtani slowly turns around the diamond. He was so good with his hands that he watched where the batted ball went (Photo: AFLO)

The Japanese national team, aiming to win the World Baseball Classic (WBC) for the first time since 2009, faced off against the Australian team on April 12. The Japanese team, which had already decided to advance to the quarterfinal round before the start of the game, won 7-1 in the first inning, including a first-inning three-run homer by Shohei Otani, starting at third base and DH, his first homer of the tournament.

Convinced of a homer the moment he hit it, Otani looked at the ball in the batter’s box to see where it would go. The batting order came around with no outs and runners on first and second in the first inning, just after the start of the game. He caught the second curveball from Sheriff, the starting left fielder for the Australian national team, and the ball arced up the right field line and hit the “Salesforce” signboard on which he appears. It was his 16th homer of the season, and his first of the tournament, and it got the game rolling.

I think it was a good homerun. It was a good homer, I think. It came at a good angle, so I was looking at it like, ‘Let it go in. (I had dreamed of hitting a homer (in the WBC) since I was a child, and I wanted to do it as soon as possible, so I managed to hit one, and I will do my best to hit another one in the next game.

In contrast to Otani’s modest joy, social networking sites were abuzz with excitement over Otani’s shocking hit. On Twitter, “Otani home run” was trending, with comments expressing excitement such as, “He’s really crazy (a compliment),” and “Otani-san is advertising his own billboard! >and “Ohtani is advertising his own billboard!

Ohtani sat in the No. 3 spot in the opening game against China on March 9 and pitched as both pitcher and DH. In four games in the first round, he has a .500 batting average, one home run, and eight runs batted in, continuing to exceed the expectations of the fans in both pitching and hitting.

Outside the ballpark, proven Meibukai warriors are also talking about “Otani’s impact. Baseball critic Meneki Emoto recently had the opportunity to have dinner with Koji Yamamoto, who managed the 2013 WBC. Yamamoto, who had been with Hiroshima for 18 years and was also a manager and known as “Mr. Red Helmet,” was a great baseball hitter and home run hitter who hit 536 arcs in his career, including one as the top hitter, four times as the home run king, and 2,339 hits in total.

The two talked about Otani’s first real game before the start of the WBC, a March 6 training game against Hanshin.

In that game, Ohtani hit a homer off Hiroto Saiki’s low outside corner fork to the right of the back screen while kneeling down on his left knee. This marked the second consecutive game in which Otani has hit a homer, including the “kneeling” homer. It was such a shocking home run that even Hotaka Yamakawa of Japan, the Pacific League home run leader last year, commented, “I really want to quit baseball.

When I talked with Koji, he said, “Ohtani is a monster. But as for that kneeling hit, he said, ‘I’ve hit one too. I swung at a short-bouncing curveball with my knees and threw it into the left field stands. There have been other hitters other than Koji who have hit home runs off low balls that bounced one yard off the wall, but most of the time, the ball is hooked and sent flying, so right-handed hitters usually hit them into left field and left-handed hitters into right field,” said Emoto.

So what is Otani’s greatness?

Koji said, ‘It’s amazing that he can take a pitch that looks like it’s going to bounce one way and get it to center field. In Ohtani’s case, he pulls the pitcher’s pitch as hard as he can to his left foot, so his body doesn’t open up. I developed a swing that made sense for the fastballs and moving balls in the Majors. That technique was a big difference from other players, and Koji took notice of it.

In the 8th inning, Yamakawa was sent in to bat for him before his 5th at-bat, and Otani was relieved of his duties.

In his post-game hero interview, Otani said, “Most of the time, they put me in situations where there are runners on base. My job is to return the runners (on base) to the batter’s box. I am allowed to stand at bat with a wide variety of pitchers. I enjoy being at bat and the hitting continues to be good. (The batting lineup) can score runs from anywhere. The pitchers are also pitching tenaciously. I have the impression that good games are continuing, and we have a strong team waiting for us in the next round, so we will keep our heads up and do our best to win the championship.

In the quarterfinals on August 16, following the opening game against China, there is a possibility that he will play in the tournament as a dual-thrower. The team will be hoping to use the power they saved up on this day to explode with their pitching and hitting.

The signboard where Ohtani’s home run hit the ball. It was located right next to the electronic billboard and was reported to be an estimated 140 meters (Photo: Afro).

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