Even other pro athletes awed by Ohtani

May 19th, 2021

Angels two-way star just keeps finding ways to astonish us.

When he’s not firing 100 mph fastballs and devastating splitters to overmatched hitters, Ohtani is blasting home runs on pitches near his eye level, like he did Monday against Cleveland. Ohtani’s homer came on a pitch that was 4.19 feet off the ground -- the highest pitch hit for a homer by an Angels hitter since the pitch-tracking era began in 2008 -- and gave him the Major League lead in round-trippers with 13.

In his most recent appearance as a pitcher, Ohtani struck out 10 batters over seven innings of one-run ball against the Astros, then moved to right field to finish the game.

Ohtani will take a 2.10 ERA and a 36.4% strikeout rate into his start on the mound against Cleveland on Wednesday at 8:07 p.m. ET. It’s one of MLB.TV’s Free Games of the Day and will also air live on MLB Network.

Ohtani’s amazing feats are starting to attract more and more attention -- not only around the Majors but also from athletes and media members outside the baseball sphere.

Here’s a sample of the types of reactions Ohtani has been inspiring:

Stars in other sports

Shortly after Ohtani's impressive homer on Monday, three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award winner J.J. Watt was compelled to tweet about the Angels star.

"It feels like a lot of people are talking about Shohei Ohtani but still nowhere near enough people are talking about Shohei Ohtani," Watt wrote. "What he's doing in baseball is insane."

When Ohtani moved to right field after pitching against the Astros, it drew the attention of Brooklyn Nets guard Mike James, who tweeted teammate Kevin Durant to ask if he saw it.

"Different breed," Durant replied. "Trading for him now in [MLB] The Show."

Current MLB players, managers

Mets right-hander Marcus Stroman called Ohtani "a mythical legend in human form" and said he rushes to his phone to check for Ohtani updates after the Mets are done playing.

Red Sox closer Matt Barnes was effusive with praise for Ohtani after allowing a go-ahead, two-run homer to the 26-year-old with two outs in the top of the ninth inning Sunday.

“I personally think he's the most physically gifted baseball player that we've ever seen,” Barnes said. “I don't know that you're ever going to see somebody who can throw 101 and hit the ball 600 feet. So, I mean, he's a special player. He's incredibly talented and hopefully he stays healthy and has a long career.”

Before his start against the Angels on Tuesday, Cleveland righty Zach Plesac said he was looking forward to squaring off with Ohtani -- that was before Ohtani launched his MLB-leading 14th home run of the season off Plesac in the first inning.

"I just think about all the fun he's probably having, showing up to the field every day being able to play somewhere, on the mound or in the field or in the lineup," Plesac said. "I'm sure he's having a lot of fun. It's amazing to see the things he's been able to accomplish on the mound and on the field. It's just awesome. I'm excited to watch him play and I'm excited to face up with him."

Angels first baseman/outfielder Jared Walsh knows a thing or two about pulling double duty as a pitcher and hitter. He was a two-way player at the University of Georgia and even threw five innings for the Halos in 2019.

The 27-year-old appreciates what his teammate is doing this season.

"I don't think people realize how special [Ohtani] is," Walsh said in a recent appearance on MLB Network. "Once you see him in person, I mean, the ball comes off his bat like no one I've ever seen."

According to Angels manager Joe Maddon, the team has come to expect the extraordinary from Ohtani.

"Shohei's home run was absolutely the biggest jolt," Maddon said Monday. "Talk about an elevated fastball. [Sam] Hentges has a really good arm and it was 94 mph or something like that. He's so smart. Who knows, maybe he was looking for an elevated fastball right there. Nothing he's doing right now is surprising any of us. ... Just keep watching. He's pretty interesting to watch. The combination of speed and the fact that he pitches, too, makes it even more revolutionary in regards to everything else."

Cleveland manager Terry Francona and president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti both used the word "generational" with regards to Ohtani's ability.

“You know, he's an incredible athlete,” Francona said. “Generational, I think, is a good word. I mean, this guy is a pretty amazing athlete. And to be able to do what he's doing at this level, it's pretty amazing.”

“I mean, really, when you think about generational talent, he’s a generational talent,” Antonetti said. “There are not players or athletes in a world that can do the things he can do on both sides of the ball, and to do it at such a high level is really extraordinary and unique. So, I would treasure the opportunities we continue to get to watch him play and compete.”

Rangers closer Ian Kennedy noted that Ohtani has not only lived up to expectations, but he's actually exceeded them.

"I mean a lot of people were, you know, speculative of how good of a hitter he was or how good of a pitcher he was. I remember I was like, 'Yeah, okay, we'll see if he can hit,' because I knew how good a pitcher he was. I knew what kind of stuff he had, but he's a way better hitter than I thought he'd ever turn out to be."

Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who saw Ohtani and the Angels over the weekend at Fenway Park, emphasized just how rare Ohtani is, and how we shouldn't take for granted what we're witnessing.

"We’ve never seen anything like that," Cora said. "This is, I don’t know, [like] Deion Sanders in football, right? Doing it both ways. And those guys are freaks. You don’t see that often. For how tough he was on Sunday, you just have to enjoy it. I don’t know if we’re going to see that ever again."

Astros skipper Dusty Baker has been watching great baseball players for more than half a century. He's not only in awe of Ohtani the baseball player, but also Ohtani the man.

"This guy is a tremendous, tremendous athlete and what impresses me the most about him is how mannerable he is to the opposition, which is part of their culture, Japanese culture," Baker said. "He greets the umpire, he greets the hitter -- he ain't greeted me yet but I'm hiding over there. He'd probably greet me if he saw me. I'm just impressed with him as a player and as a person as well."

Twins right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who was a teammate of Ohtani's in 2018, used the word "crazy" a lot.

"It's just crazy," he said. "You go out there and pump 100 [mph]. Obviously, you know what that looks like. And then you throw a nasty 90-plus splitter that drops off the table. When you're on, it's unhittable. That's just crazy."

Royals outfielder Andrew Benintendi loves watching Ohtani, under certain conditions.

"That one game [early in the season], where he pitched and hit, threw one like 101 mph and then hit one 115 mph," Benintendi said. "Obviously, he’s extremely talented and it’s fun to watch… when it’s not against you."

For Mariners manager Scott Servais, Ohtani is just a cut above the greatest players in the game.

"There's a lot of kind of generational-type players running around the game right now and [we've] just never seen anything like it before," Servais said. "It's very, very unique."

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo got to the heart of the matter very succinctly.

"There was no way to pitch him," Montoyo said. "You pitch him away, he goes deep to left. You pitch him in, he goes deep to right. He can fly. He can throw 100. It’s impressive to me."

Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe made the point that it's one thing to be able to do what Ohtani can do, and another to do it over and over again.

"There's not a whole lot of guys that can hit a ball 120 mph and throw a ball 100 mph," Lowe said. "I think a lot of people would be happy with just one of those things. It's extremely impressive that he can do both of them and be as good and as consistent as he is."

Lowe's teammate, right-hander Tyler Glasnow, has faced a lot of hitters. None of them are quite like Ohtani.

"For the most part, when I throw a pretty good curveball like at the bottom of the zone, a lot of guys don't necessarily get close to it and hit it," Glasnow said. "I mean, I threw some really good ones and he fouled them off. So I got him once, and then I hung a slider and he got me. But yeah, he's very impressive. Carries himself well. Ginormous human being."

Former MLB stars

Former MLB pitcher CC Sabathia has been driving the Ohtani hype train for a while.

When Angels outfielder Justin Upton was a guest on Sabathia's podcast (R2C2, which he hosts with Ryan Ruocco) in April 2020, Sabathia said Ohtani was, "the best baseball player I've ever seen in my life."

Then, early this season, Sabathia predicted that Ohtani would win the American Lague MVP Award if he stays healthy.

Sabathia doubled down after Ohtani reclaimed the MLB home run lead on Monday.

Former MLB outfielder and current ESPN analyst Doug Glanville suggests an Ohtani alert system for those who don't want to miss a single moment when Ohtani is hitting or pitching.

Former Major League outfielder Adam Jones now plays for the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. He, too, has taken notice of Ohtani's performance in 2021.

"Ohtani is flat out impressive," Jones wrote on Twitter last Friday. "Like wow. I'm in awe."

Former Major League second baseman Bret Boone hit a few home runs in his day, but he knows an unprecedented phenomenon in baseball when he sees one.

Non-baseball media members

MSNBC's Chris Hayes compared Ohtani to Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who is known for his outside shooting prowess.

"This is like Steph burying a [3-pointer] from 35 feet," Hayes wrote on Twitter after Ohtani's homer Monday night. "Just makes you laugh out loud."

NFL Network's Adam Rank thinks it's time to start including Ohtani in the "best in baseball" conversation.

Ohtani will look to add to his growing collection of two-way highlights Wednesday when he gets his next opportunity to pitch. You can tune in on MLB.TV and MLB Network to see what he has in store.