Back in February, Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani sat down for an interview in advance of the World Baseball Classic to discuss his career to that point and plans for the future. Unfortunately, he injured his ankle and fans across the globe never got to see the two-way phenom in the
Back in February, Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani sat down for an interview in advance of the World Baseball Classic to discuss his career to that point and plans for the future. Unfortunately, he injured his ankle and fans across the globe never got to see the two-way phenom in the Classic.
With Ohtani officially posted on Friday to begin the process of choosing a Major League club, this interview offers some insight into his thoughts on MLB, his favorite players and why he can't beat his mother at badminton.
Below is a transcript of that interview (edited for context), which was dictated via an interpreter.
:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::
MLB.com: How would you like us to spell your name? It has been spelled a couple different ways.
Ohtani: I don't really know the correct spelling, but when filling out paperwork, I put the H in there.
• Sho and tell: FAQ about Ohtani, posting system
MLB.com: What do you recall about watching Japan win the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and '09?
Ohtani: I was in grade school, watching at home. I remember watching Ichiro's big hit and really loving the game.
MLB.com: What was your reaction the first time someone described you as the Babe Ruth of Japan?
Ohtani: He's almost like a God figure in baseball, so being compared to that is humbling. But I don't think I'm at that level yet.
MLB.com: Who were your favorite players growing up?
Ohtani: Ichiro was one of the hitters I looked up to.
MLB.com: Did you idolize more hitters than pitchers as a kid?
Ohtani: I didn't really pick one or the other, I just loved watching good ballplayers.
• Scouting top 8 contenders to sign Ohtani
MLB.com: When you come to MLB, how important is it for you to continue both hitting and pitching?
Ohtani: I'm not really sure how the American managers and scouts would rate my hitting compared to the way I'm rated in Japan. I would like to do both if I can.
MLB.com: What do you remember about almost coming directly to MLB out of high school?
Ohtani: The Giants, Rangers and Dodgers were being the most aggressive in scouting me at that time.
MLB.com: Do you think you'll remember those teams when it's time to go to MLB?
Ohtani: The situation is different from four years ago. It might be the same teams, but possibly not the same personnel. So everyone will have the same shot.
MLB.com: Four years ago, why did you decide to stay in Japan and pitch for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, rather than come to MLB?
Ohtani: One of the biggest factors was the Fighters asking me to both hit and pitch.
• Fans taken by Ohtani's set of skills, innocence
MLB.com: If you played in a league with no designated hitter, are there field positions you can play?
Ohtani: I have played in right field in the past, but I'm not sure how that would compare to an MLB team. Pitching is more of my strength.
MLB.com: What are the most important factors in deciding on an MLB team?
Ohtani: The people on the team and in charge of the team is what matters most. I need to have a feeling of wanting to play for them.
MLB.com: How exciting is it for you that you can come here and change the way Americans think about baseball?
Ohtani: It's not up to me to decide if this is a successful decision, it's up to the fans and the analysts. If they can accept me as a two-way player, that is an exciting thought.
MLB.com: Who are your favorite players in MLB right now?
Ohtani: I love watching Bryce Harper's hitting.
MLB.com: What's your relationship like with Yu Darvish?
Ohtani: I train with him in the offseason, and he reaches out once in a while. He takes good care of me.
MLB.com: Would it be better for you and Darvish to be on separate teams?
Ohtani: Being on the same team would be great, but being on separate teams would also be great, because I would get to face him.
MLB.com: How many hitters in Japan do you think are better than you right now?
Ohtani: Oh, so many, I can't even count that high.
MLB.com: Any pitchers?
Ohtani: Same thing, too many to count.
MLB.com: Is there anything that makes you nervous about coming to the United States to play?
Ohtani: I would be nervous about everything. It's a new country, new professional life. There's a lot to be nervous about.
MLB.com: How's your English coming along?
Ohtani: That's one of the things that makes me nervous. It's probably preschool level at this point. I'd like to speak for myself, but will probably have an interpreter.
MLB.com: What do you like about daily life in the United States?
Ohtani: I've only been to Hawaii and Arizona, but I like the huge steaks.
MLB.com: What cities are you curious about and would like to see?
Ohtani: The Rocky Balboa statue, I want a picture of that.
MLB.com: Philadelphia has a baseball team, you know.
Ohtani: No, I just want to visit there.
MLB.com: When you watch MLB, do you have a favorite team that you follow more than the rest?
Ohtani: In Japan, they mostly broadcast games with Japanese players. So I watch whatever games are on.
MLB.com: Both of your parents are athletic. What have they done in sports?
Ohtani: My father played baseball up until the Industrial League level. My mother was a badminton player and also played until the Industrial Level.
MLB.com: Who's the better athlete?
Ohtani: My mother. I can't beat her at badminton to this day.
MLB.com: Why is she so good at badminton?
Ohtani: I can't really tell, she's tall and she's been playing for a long time.
MLB.com: How special was the moment you hit the ball into the roof of the Tokyo Dome?
Ohtani: I rarely pull the ball that hard, so it felt really good.
MLB.com: Did you know American fans watched it? Are you excited about that?
Ohtani: I'm very happy to hear that, it's honoring.
MLB.com: In your opinion, who are the greatest players in the history of Japanese baseball?
MLB.com: What do you think has made him unique in his longevity?
Ohtani: I would like to know the answer. I had a chance to meet him a few times. He is a great person and mentor. I respect him as a baseball player and a human being.
MLB.com: What are the benchmarks by which you will measure your career when it's over?
Ohtani: Of course, awards and milestones, but how much applause and love I get from the fans when I announce my retirement will be a good measure.
MLB.com: What do you most want American fans to know about yourself?
Ohtani: The only thing I can promise is that I will play as hard as I can. And maybe that will inspire other people, that is the most honorable thing about playing baseball.
Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network. He has also covered baseball for FOX Sports, the Detroit Free Press, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.