NEW YORK — Shohei Ohtani is baseball omnipresence.
There he goes, doing the hitting, the running and by Jove, even the pitching, too. His magic, his value, his impact and soon, his fortune, all derive from Ohtani’s ability to perform on both sides of the ball not just at an adequate level, but at an extraordinary one. This winter, Ohtani will become the highest-paid baseballer in history because he can thwack it and he can chuck it.
But for one out of every three Angels series, the two-way baseball dynamo reverts to something less awe-inspiring, yet still immense: a damn good designated hitter. Ohtani is incredible, yes, but he is also a human being and a starting pitcher, which means he needs five days to recuperate between starts. Even the gods need naps.
And because Ohtani pitched on Monday afternoon at Fenway Park against the Red Sox, he will not throw a single pitch against the Yankees in the Bronx this week. But while the baseball world won’t get its dreamland Ohtani-Aaron Judge showdown this time around — was the Ohtani-Mike Trout WBC match-up not enough for you people? — it got a pretty good consolation prize in the first inning on Tuesday night.
On a nippy, windswept evening in New York, the 28-year-old reigning MVP dispatched the third pitch he saw, a dull Clarke Schmidt cutter, on a line into the right-field seats. As is so often the case with Ohtani’s home runs, the baseball did not exactly dawdle on its journey to the great beyond. In fact, his 116.7 mph blast was the hardest hit ball of Ohtani’s 2023 season thus far and the fourth-hardest hit homer of his entire career. This blast, however, also happened to transpire on the 100th anniversary of the old Yankee Stadium, a day in which the original two-way folk hero Babe Ruth also cleared the fences. But of course.
“I knew it was the 100th anniversary, but I didn’t know Babe homered,” Ohtani said through translator Ippei Mizuhara.
Anytime Ohtani homers it’s newsworthy, so anytime he goes yard in Yankee Stadium, the self-proclaimed epicenter of the baseball universe, it’s an even bigger deal. And considering that this year’s Ohtani’s trip to the Bronx (aka the annual opportunity for pinstripe zealots to chant “future Yankee!” at the guy) has added heft with his impending free agency, you better believe that people are going to watch and remember this home run.
So even though on Tuesday, and for the next two games, Ohtani might as well be a faster, more charismatic version of Harold Baines, he’s still capable of magnificent and noteworthy feats. He doesn’t merely hit and pitch, no. He is a hitter and a pitcher. Never forget that, my friends.
Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He played college baseball, poorly at first, then very well, very briefly. Jake lives in New York City where he coaches Little League and rides his bike, sometimes at the same time. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.
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