Shohei Ohtani is the entire show, and he welcomes the idea.
After an utterly historic season by any measure of the word, the Angels’ two-way superstar almost instantly surpassed teammate Mike Trout to become the preeminent (and somewhat mythical) “face of baseball” in 2021.
Ohtani, winner of Sporting News’ 2021 Player of the Year Award, 2021 Athlete of the Year Award, also added a unanimous AL MVP selection for his efforts on the field. Those awards join his 2018 Rookie of the Year award on the mantle.
It may be intangible, but it seems “baseball face” means more to the star.
Speaking for a lengthy article in GQ, Ohtani weighed in on his position to become the face of baseball, adding that he welcomes the burden that comes with being the sport’s greatest ambassador:
More than pressure. I’m really happy to hear that. It’s what I came here for, to be the best player I can. And hearing “the face of baseball” is very welcoming to me and it gives me more motivation to, because I’ve just had, this was my first really good year. And it’s only one year. So it gives me more motivation to keep going and have more great years.
MORE: Sporting News MLB Awards 2021: Ohtani is the best player in the game
Among other things, Ohtani addressed nonsensical criticism from ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, who in July said Ohtani’s lack of understanding of English somehow hurt the sport more than it helped his play on the field.
I mean, if I could speak English, I would speak English. Of course I would. Obviously it wouldn’t hurt to be able to speak English. There would only be positive things to come of it. But I came here to play baseball, at the end of the day, and I felt that my game on the field could be my way of communicating with the people, with the fans. That’s all I really took from that in the end.
Ohtani’s 2021 season was among the best in the history of the sport, or any sport. At the plate, Ohtani hit 46 home runs with a .965 OPS. In rubber, he started 23 games, pitching with a 3.18 ERA in 130 innings.
The performance of the phenomenon in 2021 places it firmly in a unique category. Now, he’s 1 for 1 as the face of the sport.