Ohtani keeps his All-Star promise: 'First pitch, full swing'

July 20th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Before he stepped up to the plate to lead off the 2022 MLB All-Star Game, Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani told FOX’s Tom Verducci that he was going to swing at the first pitch from longtime Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

“First pitch, full swing,” said Ohtani in English. “That’s it.”

Ohtani, the reigning American League MVP, was true to his word, as he singled to center field on a first-pitch 91 mph fastball from Kershaw. Ohtani, who was participating in his second career Midsummer Classic and was 0-for-8 in his career against Kershaw, said he decided he was going to swing first pitch no matter what, as it didn’t matter the pitch type or location. It marked just the third time in All-Star history that a batter got a hit on the first pitch of the game. The others were Kirby Puckett in 1986 and Mike Trout in 2013.

“I was definitely swinging, 100 percent, and Kershaw has good command, so he wasn’t going to leave it over the middle,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I wish I would’ve hit it more square, or a swing and a miss might’ve been better. It was something in the middle, so I wasn’t very happy about that.”

Kershaw, who expressed his admiration for Ohtani on Monday, said he threw a fastball because it’s unusual to start a game -- let alone an All-Star Game -- with a breaking pitch.

“You can't throw the first pitch of an All-Star Game as a breaking ball,” Kershaw said with a laugh. “He didn't hit it over the fence, so it was a win and we can move on. But, yeah, you kind of had to give him a heater there, I think just for everything. Had to do it.”

Ohtani, though, was promptly picked off by Kershaw at first base, as Kershaw caught Ohtani leaning, about to attempt a stolen base.

“I was not expecting that,” Ohtani said. “I guess my name is going to be in the papers, whether it’s good or bad.”

Kershaw explained he didn’t plan to throw over to first but decided to after he couldn’t decide what pitch to throw to Aaron Judge, who eventually struck out.

“I just kind of lobbed it over there,” Kershaw said. “I didn’t know what pitch to throw yet, so just kind of giving myself a second and I got him. It was good.”

Ohtani also drew a walk against Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove in the third inning but was stranded. He didn’t pitch in the game because he’s starting Friday against the Braves in Atlanta.

He said he enjoyed his All-Star experience and said it wasn’t as tiring as last year, when he participated in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, started the All-Star Game on the mound and served as leadoff hitter.

He was also thankful for the support he received from the rival Dodgers fans at Dodger Stadium, as he received loud applause when introduced before the game.

“When I heard my name, I heard the fans cheer and I was really appreciative,” Ohtani said. “I only come here a couple times a year, but this is one of the stadiums I really liked. So I was appreciative.”