Ohtani's first Classic homer nearly hits his own face (on a billboard)

March 12th, 2023

TOKYO -- Not surprisingly, you see Shohei Ohtani most places you go in Tokyo. The superstar two-way player is omnipresent, with merchandise, photographs and billboards everywhere you go. That includes where Ohtani's very own home runs land.

Facing Australia in the World Baseball Classic on Sunday night, Ohtani stepped to the plate in the first inning against Australia's Will Sherriff. The Angels slugger got a hanging curveball and deposited it 448 feet -- nearly hitting his own billboard in right field along the way -- to give Japan a 3-0 lead. Team Japan would go on to a 7-1 victory, giving them a perfect 4-0 record in Pool B.

The home run was Ohtani's first of the World Baseball Classic -- though he hammered two in an exhibition game in Osaka before tournament play began. That night, he joked with the fans that they should cheer louder.

"[The cheers] gave me strength," he told the packed house. "But it's still not enough. Please cheer in even louder and louder voices."

That wasn't a problem inside the Tokyo Dome.

Japan has already clinched a spot in the second round so this game is more about pride and a perfect Pool B record for the hosting nation. An Australia loss, though, means that the Czech Republic, Korea, and the team in green-and-gold would still be in contention for the second spot.