Hear what All-Stars said about Ohtani

July 20th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger's Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

LOS ANGELES -- Two-way star Shohei Ohtani’s All-Star Game experience was a bit different this year than it was last year.

Last year, Ohtani memorably participated in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, started the game on the mound for the American League and was also the leadoff hitter and designated hitter. But Ohtani took a different route for the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium, as he declined to participate in the Home Run Derby and also decided he didn’t want to pitch in the game.

Ohtani is starting the first game after the All-Star break on Friday in Atlanta and didn’t feel like he’d have enough time to recover for that start if he did all the things he did last year. Ohtani, though, still served as the leadoff hitter and designated hitter for the American League for a second straight year. Ohtani went 1-for-1 with a base hit in the AL’s 3-2 victory over the NL.

“Last year, it was my first All-Star Game so I was more nervous,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “But this year, I’m not as nervous and having more fun.”

Ohtani was again popular among All-Star players who continue to be in awe of his abilities as both a hitter and a pitcher. Astros veteran ace Justin Verlander was among those who believe that Ohtani should be the frontrunner for the American League MVP Award.

“If someone goes out and is one of the best hitters, and they are also one of the best pitchers, it’s hard to vote against them,” Verlander said.

Twins center fielder Byron Buxton, who replaced Mike Trout as a starter in the outfield for the American League, said he’d also consider the Yankees’ Aaron Judge but noted how difficult it is to hit and pitch. Buxton was considered an elite high school pitcher with a fastball that reached the high-90s, but he said being a two-way player wasn’t an option at that time.

“It’s fun to watch,” Buxton said. “It’s something where scouts would ask me in high school if I wanted to do both, and I was like, ‘No, why would I want to do that? Nobody does it.’ So finally to have somebody like Shohei who can do that, it takes the game to a whole different level. At some point, it’s going to allow the guys who do both to be able to do that. There won’t be another Shohei, but there are guys who can do both.”