Ohtani announces he's in for HR Derby

June 19th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Two-way star is known for his prodigious power and has put on legendary displays during batting practice. And now he’ll get his chance to show it on the big stage, as he announced Friday that he’s set to participate in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at Coors Field on July 12.

This will mark the first Home Run Derby for Ohtani, who currently ranks third in MLB with 19 home runs. Ohtani, who won the 2016 Nippon Professional Baseball Home Run Derby, is the first Japanese-born player to participate in MLB's version.

“I’m very excited,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I always wanted to see a Japanese player participate in the Home Run Derby and it happens to be me. So I’m really excited.”

Ohtani added that he plans to have Angels bullpen catcher Jason Brown throw to him. He also believes he learned from his past experience participating in the event in Japan.

“In 2016, I remember trying to swing the bat too hard, like harder than normal,” Ohtani said. “So this time around, I’m going to try to use that experience and take normal BP hacks and not try to do too much.”

The Angels have lifted restrictions on Ohtani this season, as he’s played in 67 of the club’s 69 games. Ohtani has slashed .270/.354/.615 with 47 RBIs in 64 games as a hitter. He also has gone 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings as a pitcher.

Ohtani was the leader among American League designated hitters in the All-Star Game balloting update released on Monday. And Angels manager Joe Maddon has indicated that he would be OK with Ohtani pitching in the Midsummer Classic as long as it lines up with his schedule.

Maddon also said he has no worries about the Home Run Derby adversely affecting Ohtani’s swing or causing an injury.

“People have these questions of whether he’s going to get tired or hurt or not,” Maddon said. “I just don’t function that way. This is an opportunity for him to showcase even more. I believe he’ll handle it properly. Nobody knows if someone will get hurt or if it affects performance afterward. That’s all conjecture.”

In terms of his slugging chops, Ohtani -- the first competitor announced for the event -- ranks fifth in MLB in average home run distance (419 feet), and his 470-foot homer on June 9 was the fifth-longest this season and the longest of his career.

He also has some experience at Coors Field, going 1-for-2 as a pinch-hitter in an Interleague series in May of 2018. Ohtani put on quite a show during batting practice as well, memorably hitting a ball into the third deck in right-center field.

“Everyone told me the ball flies there,” Ohtani said. “I felt that while taking BP and it was a lot of fun.”

Maddon pointed out that Ohtani is helping grow the game of baseball and that the Home Run Derby could open the eyes of those who aren’t fans of the sport.

"You don't have to be a basketball fan to appreciate Michael Jordan or a football fan to appreciate Tom Brady," Maddon said. "You don't have to be a real baseball fan to appreciate the abilities of Shohei. Just tune in and watch the excitement that surrounds him. Even if you're not a baseball fan and you just check out how far he's going to hit home runs in Denver -- and then you see the guy's stats and that he pitches, at some point you gotta go, 'Well, this guy's a little bit different.'"