Eppler 'stunned' by Ohtani choosing Angels

'It was a pretty remarkable moment,' GM says of learning two-way star's decision

December 10th, 2017

ANAHEIM -- General manager Billy Eppler quite literally fell out of his chair when he received a call Friday morning informing him that Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani wanted to sign with the Angels.
Earlier in the day, Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo of CAA, had called to tell Eppler that a decision could be coming soon, albeit at an unpredictable moment.
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"It might be today, it might be tomorrow," Balelo said. "It might be 10 days from now."
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An hour and a half later, at 11 a.m. PT, Eppler's phone buzzed again. On the other end was CAA's main line. Eppler, who was in assistant general manager Jonathan Strangio's office at Angel Stadium, immediately shut the door.
"Hey, there's one last thing I forgot to tell you," Balelo said.
"What's that?" Eppler asked.
"It's that Shohei Ohtani wants to be an Angel."
Strangio put his face in his hands and rested his head on his desk. Eppler stood up, tried to sit back down, and missed.
"I whiffed," Eppler said. "I fell all the way to the ground. There's so much adrenaline pumping at that moment, I didn't feel it.
"I was just stunned. It was a pretty remarkable moment."
Knowing that Balelo would soon be releasing a statement to the media, Eppler quickly phoned owner Arte Moreno to tell him the good news. Outside Strangio's office, the rest of the Angels' front office staff gathered and began clapping and cheering.

For Eppler, it represented the culmination of a journey that had begun four years ago, when he first saw Ohtani play for the Nippon-Ham Fighters during his rookie season in Japan.
"There was a wow factor to him," said Eppler, who estimated that he personally scouted Ohtani about 10 times since 2013. "He was a little bit of a showstopper. Big fastball, the ability to throw three offspeed pitches for strikes, get swings and misses. And he had a presence in the batter's box that we gravitated to."
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While Eppler continued to monitor Ohtani's development from afar, the two didn't meet in person until Monday night, when the Angels made a two-hour presentation to the 23-year-old in Los Angeles as part of the league-wide recruitment process organized by CAA. Eppler noted that manager Mike Scioscia brought some levity to the meeting by making Ohtani laugh, but he took away no other clues regarding the impression of their pitch.
"I don't want to liken this to a job interview or an episode of 'The Bachelorette,' but you really have no read," Eppler said. "I likened it a lot to how it felt going through the GM interview process. You don't know the impression that you made, but you're all hands on deck and you're ready to jump through hoops next time we want to meet."

On Thursday night, Ohtani met with Eppler and his staff again and toured Angel Stadium. Ohtani's questions seemed to be more specific this time around, but Eppler still did not allow himself to become optimistic.
"I tried to keep myself in the moment," Eppler said.
When the wait finally ended the following morning, Eppler said he felt a level of elation that was comparable to only two other milestones in his life: his wedding and the birth of his son.
The jubilation soon spread to other Angels players. Soon after he heard the news, catcher Martin Maldonado immediately requested that video from all of Ohtani's games from 2015-16 be sent to his iPad. The Angels' front office complied.
Eppler also received a call from Mike Trout, who was with many of his teammates on the East Coast as he prepared for his wedding this weekend.
Trout put Eppler on speaker and said, "Let them all hear it, let them all hear it. Did we get him?"
"Yeah, we got him," Eppler said.