ANAHEIM -- It was Shohei Ohtani’s idea but it was interpreter Ippei Mizuhara who executed the plan.
The Angels wanted to introduce a celebratory home run hat this season after they wore a cowboy hat to celebrate their homers most of last year. And Ohtani, fresh off winning the World Baseball Classic with Team Japan, had the perfect idea, a samurai warrior helmet or a kabuto.
Mizuhara found a custom-made kabuto from Japan that includes a Japanese lion atop it, which Ohtani purchased for roughly $2,500, but the only issue was how to bring it on the road because of its weight and size. The Angels decided not to debut it on their opening road trip through Oakland and Seattle, instead celebrating their homers with straw hats in thos games.
But the Angels debuted the new samurai helmet in their home opener on Friday and fittingly it was superstar Mike Trout who got to wear it first after crushing a two-run homer in the first inning. Outfielder Brett Phillips bestowed the helmet on Trout, who joked about how heavy it felt after the game.
“It was cool,” Trout said. “I couldn’t really see out of it. It was heavy, too. But it was cool. It was different, but it’s for the boys.”
Trout again got the chance to wear the samurai helmet with his homer on Saturday, while Luis Rengifo and Hunter Renfroe also got into the action with their first homers of the season.
And on Sunday, Ohtani finally got his chance to wear the celebratory helmet after hitting a two-run blast homer off fellow Japan native Yusei Kikuchi. Renfroe, Logan O’Hoppe and Brandon Druryalso homered in the wild 11-10 loss.
The Angels plan to use the helmet to celebrate homers at home, but they’ve yet to determine if it will travel with them on the road this year. Angels manager Phil Nevin said he liked the idea and the camaraderie it brings but was hesitant to want to try on the helmet before Saturday’s game.
“I don’t want to put it on my head,” Nevin said with a laugh. “I’d have to hit a home run again.”