What’s not to love about Los Angeles Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani?
He’s the modern day Babe Ruth — leading the major leagues in home runs (34) and has a 3.49 era on the mound — and does so with a big smile on his face.
In a sport that lacks any semblance of an ability to market its stars — looking at you Rob Manfred — Ohtani has found a way to become the face of baseball.
Last week, Ohtani became the first player in Major League Baseball history to be selected to the All-Star Game as both a hitter and a pitcher. He got the start on the mound for the American League and batted leadoff in the 2021 All-Star Game at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado.
Ohtani also participated in the Home Run Derby, though he failed to advance past the first round of the competition. And while his inability to win the Derby was a disappointment, he quickly showed Major League Baseball why they should be proud to have Ohtani as the face of the game.
Ohtani received $150,000 for his participation in the Derby, and quietly went about distributing the money to dozens of Angels’ support staff members.
According to the The Orange County Register, “Ohtani received $150,000 for participating in the Derby, but he distributed that to around 30 Angels support staffers to thank them for their work, sources said.”
The Angels star reportedly handed out the checks before last Friday’s game against the Seattle Mariners.
If you were looking for a reason to watch the second half of MLB’s season, you’ve found it.
Maybe Ohtani’s generosity will change some minds.
Last week, Stephen A. Smith of ESPN got himself in hot water after saying that Ohtani’s stardom was “harming the game” due to his need of an interpreter.
“The fact that you got a foreign player that doesn’t speak English, that needs an interpreter — believe it or not — I think contributes to harming the game to some degree, when that’s your box office appeal,” Smith said. “It needs to be somebody like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, those guys. And unfortunately at this moment in time, that’s not the case.”
Ohtani is from Japan, and while he is not fluent, he can speak English. He also speaks Spanish.
“When you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube, or to the ballpark, to actually watch you, I don’t think it helps that the No. 1 face is a dude that needs an interpreter so you can understand what the hell he’s saying, in this country,” Smith said. “And that’s what I’m trying to say.”
Smith apologized — profusely — for his words, but his point had already been made.
“The reality of the situation is that you have Asians and Asian Americans out there that obviously were very very offended for what I had to say yesterday,” Smith said on “First Take.” “And I just want to look into the camera and extend my apologies. That was not my intent at all.”
We understand what Smith was trying to say, he just said it in the worst way possible. Baseball has been searching for a star to market since the steroid era. They’ve tried with Trout and Harper, and the league is no better off than when they first entered the league.
Ohtani is baseball’s hope. A likable star that’s doing something not seen since the “The Great Bambino” who also takes care of the people around him? There’s nothing not to like.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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