Ippei Mizuhara’s Partner was Fired and Yet Otani’s “SHO-TIME 2024” is not affected at All | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Ippei Mizuhara’s Partner was Fired and Yet Otani’s “SHO-TIME 2024” is not affected at All

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During the opening game, Ohtani hit his first hit of the season off Darvish in the third inning and immediately recorded his first stolen base. He’s been running at full throttle since the first game.

The long-awaited SHO-TIME has begun with excitement and tumult.

In the first game of the “MLB Seoul Series 2024” held in South Korea on March 20th, Shohei Ohtani (29) appeared as the designated hitter in the number two spot. His highlight came immediately in the second at-bat. Facing a 152.3 km/h fastball from Yu Darvish (37), the ace pitcher for the Padres, Ohtani swung powerfully. The blazing hit quickly reached right field, prompting enthusiastic applause. Right after his first hit of the season, he promptly recorded his first stolen base on the first pitch. With his batting and speed, he immediately thrilled the fans.

“The 16,000-seat High-Tech Sky Dome was packed with fans from Japan, the United States, and Korea, who had secured platinum tickets after a fierce battle said to be over 200 times oversubscribed. Among the spectators was Ohtani’s wife, Mamiko (27), whom he had posted a snapshot with on his own SNS. Whenever Ohtani stepped up to bat, there were cheers resembling screams from both Dodgers and Padres fans,” said a major media representative who covered the event.

Despite recording his first RBI, Ohtani’s journey seemed to be off to a smooth start. However, the following morning, shocking news spread worldwide, “Dodgers dismiss interpreter Kazuhiro Mizuhara.” Mizuhara was, in a sense, Ohtani’s partner, having shared experiences both professionally and personally. The departure of such a figure from Ohtani’s life could have immeasurable effects on his performance.

Having undergone right elbow surgery, transferred to the Dodgers for over 100-billion-yen, married Mamiko, and parted ways with his partner, Ohtani has experienced a tumultuous six months. However, his batting performance remains outstanding. MLB commentator Nachi Tomonari explains,

“In this year’s spring training, Ohtani recorded 11 hits in 22 at-bats, including two home runs and one triple. His OPS was an astonishing 1.486. Surprisingly, these stats are comparable to his performance in 2021 when he hit 46 home runs and won his first AL MVP. In 2021, Ohtani recorded 17 hits in 31 at-bats with five home runs during spring training, resulting in an OPS of 1.603. Despite starting from rehabilitation this year, he showed a batting prowess reminiscent of his performance in 2021 when he hit a career-high number of home runs. We can expect him to set new career highs.”

The successful stolen base, a feat Ohtani had never achieved in spring training before, is a testament to his determination this season.

“While Ohtani is undoubtedly in a position to aim for the Triple Crown, in America, there’s also an expectation for ’40-40′ (40 home runs, 40 stolen bases). Ronald Acuña Jr. (26), last season’s NL MVP, achieved this record, showing that 40-40 is the mark of a versatile outfielder. Trying to steal bases might be a message like, ‘If I can’t pitch, I’ll run like crazy!'” said a local American journalist.

The tailwind for Ohtani shows no signs of abating.

“In 2021, Ohtani was heavily marked in the latter half of the season, especially after Mike Trout (32) was sidelined, causing his home run momentum to stall. However, this year, being sandwiched between leadoff hitter Mookie Betts (31) and third hitter Freddie Freeman (34), both MVP hitters, means the marking is dispersed, and there are fewer situations where opponents can avoid facing him. Consequently, home runs are likely to increase,” said the aforementioned Tomonari.

Surrounded by a lineup of formidable players on the field and supported by his wife Mamiko at home, Ohtani, despite losing his partner, aims for the long-awaited title of world champion alongside his strongest allies.

From the April 5 and 12, 2024 issues of FRIDAY


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