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How Shohei Ohtani has dealt with the playing saga: ‘He is unflappable’

How Shohei Ohtani has dealt with the playing saga: ‘He is unflappable’


LOS ANGELES — It was only some weeks in the past that Shohei Ohtani was laughing within the dugout alongside Ippei Mizuhara in the course of the Dodgers’ season opener in Seoul, blissfully unaware on the time of the alleged deception, lies and greater than $16 million theft that might result in his longtime interpreter getting fired by the Dodgers and charged with financial institution fraud by federal prosecutors. 

Mizuhara appeared in U.S. District Court docket final Friday with shackles round his ankles as he surrendered to authorities after being accused of stealing hundreds of thousands from Ohtani to repay unlawful playing money owed. A number of hours later, “The Present Goes On” blared from the Dodger Stadium audio system. Ohtani stepped to the plate and heeded the recommendation of his walk-up track. 

In his first at-bat after studying concerning the costs in opposition to Mizuhara — a pal he had identified for greater than a decade, a confidant he had positioned an exorbitant quantity of belief in from the second he arrived within the main leagues in 2018, and, in the end, an accused swindler who would violate his huge religion — Ohtani lifted a 403-foot residence run by way of the chilly, crisp night air and into the left-field pavilion. 

It was his one hundred and seventy fifth profession homer, a milestone blast that tied Hideki Matsui for essentially the most residence runs in major-league historical past by a Japanese-born participant, and it encapsulated Ohtani’s extraordinary potential to compartmentalize within the midst of a shocking scandal that by no means appeared to visibly hassle or distract him, in keeping with a number of teammates and coaches. 

“You simply by no means study an individual till they undergo some adversity, whether or not on the sphere or on this case off the sphere,” supervisor Dave Roberts mentioned. “I’ve discovered that he is unflappable. He actually is.”

After starting his Dodgers profession 8-for-33 (.242) with no residence run, some questioned whether or not the playing saga and Mizuhara’s betrayal may weigh on Ohtani. Rapidly, although, the modest begin to his $700 million deal turned a distant reminiscence. Ohtani mentioned that no matter occurs off the sphere, it is nonetheless his job to play to the perfect of his skills. 

He bounced again by reeling off an eight-game hitting streak, throughout which he went 16-for-35 (.457) with 4 residence runs, wanting increasingly snug on the plate even on the top of the controversy. Even along with his hit streak now over, Ohtani entered Monday main the majors in doubles, extra-base hits and whole bases. 

“He is recovering from a surgical procedure, too, he is throwing now, and he is preserving issues actually gentle within the clubhouse, not making the entire scandal a distraction for him or for us within the clubhouse,” shortstop Miguel Rojas mentioned. “It has been very nice the way in which that he is been dealing with issues.”

Rojas admired that even when Ohtani wasn’t enjoying the way in which he needed, Ohtani’s demeanor by no means modified. 

That might be attributed to his innocence, which his teammates and coaches by no means questioned. However even when the stress did not look like weighing on Ohtani, they nonetheless felt for him all through the ordeal, which Roberts believes Ohtani dealt with “with flying colours.” 

“He is very stoic,” Roberts mentioned. “You simply do not know his feelings. He simply is available in day-after-day the identical. You by no means know if issues are good or issues are unhealthy, stuff on his thoughts. He is only a professional. He simply desires to play baseball.”

James Outman in contrast that stoicism to the way in which Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and “all the good gamers” at all times appear to discover a strategy to keep locked in. 

“You would inform he is bought good observe simply with all of the media consideration he will get anyhow, with the ability to dial in what he is doing,” Outman mentioned. “It is fairly spectacular, to be trustworthy.”

Over the previous few weeks, the Dodgers have gained extra intel on how Ohtani operates. Being a chosen hitter can generally put a participant “just a little bit on an island,” as Roberts defined it, however the Dodgers supervisor was inspired by how a lot Ohtani was nonetheless participating with these round him. 

Rojas has discovered that Ohtani tends to quietly preserve to himself throughout his diligent preparation and cage work, however the two-time MVP can be fast to snort and joke round along with his teammates. And on sport days, Rojas and Outman have appreciated Ohtani’s willingness to speak after an at-bat and share the traits of the pitches he noticed. 

“He simply provides no matter info he can to the following man as a result of he is attempting to win,” Outman defined to FOX Sports activities. “We’re speaking baseball. He speaks the identical language when it is baseball.”

The language barrier hasn’t prevented his teammates from seeing his humorousness, both. On Saturday, Ohtani was having a dialog in Japanese with Yoshinobu Yamamoto a pair lockers away. Rojas mentioned he did not perceive what they had been speaking about, however Ohtani’s snort was nonetheless infectious.

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“Simply being within the clubhouse and seeming like he was having fun with his setting makes me really feel like he is leaving every part apart,” Rojas mentioned. “We do not know when he goes residence how he feels, however at the very least on the ballpark, he appears to have a extremely good time with us.”

That, Roberts believes, might be attributed partly to Mizuhara’s departure. 

Along with his longtime interpreter gone, not serving as Ohtani’s shadow on the ballpark, Roberts believed a “buffer” was eliminated. He noticed Ohtani start to attach extra with workers and teammates. The 2-time MVP turned extra accessible. 

“I assumed that freed him up,” Roberts reiterated final week. 

After all, so did Ohtani’s first residence run as a Dodger — an imposing, 430-foot blast off the Giants’ Taylor Rogers on April 3 that admittedly gave the slugger some aid after his sluggish begin. The deep drive ended an eight-game homerless skid that was the longest of his profession to start a season, however it wasn’t till Ohtani reached the highest steps of the dugout, when teammate Teoscar Hernández showered him with sunflower seeds, that he lastly cracked a smile. Hernández, specifically, has constructed an in depth relationship with Ohtani of their first season with the Dodgers. That started quickly in spring training, when Hernández started instructing the Japanese slugger completely different phrases in Spanish. 

“I believe the perfect factor we are able to all do is deal with him like an everyday baseball participant, like everybody else within the clubhouse,” Roberts mentioned. “I believe somebody that is so distinctive and so gifted, individuals are likely to get tentative and draw back. However within the clubhouse, you’ll be able to’t try this.”

Shohei Ohtani News: First Dodgers home run

Roberts is not sure if Ohtani has actually been capable of separate his skilled and private life the way in which he has made it seem or if the two-time MVP simply has “an excellent poker face.” He assumes it is in all probability someplace in between. But when the previous few weeks have worn in any respect on Ohtani, he has hid it masterfully since information first broke about Mizuhara’s involvement in wire transfers made out of Ohtani’s account to an unlawful bookmaker. 

Days later, in a press convention on March 25, Ohtani matter-of-factly outlined his model of occasions. In an almost 12-minute assertion, Ohtani vehemently denied that he ever guess on sports activities, that he ever requested anybody to take action on his behalf and that he had any information of the funds. His collected demeanor belied his disbelief. 

“To summarize how I am feeling proper now, I am simply past shocked,” Ohtani mentioned, days after Mizuhara fessed as much as him following a group assembly in Korea. “It is actually laborious to verbalize how I am feeling at this level.”

The extent to which Mizuhara allegedly stole from Ohtani wouldn’t be unveiled till weeks later. 

Stories initially steered Mizuhara had funneled an quantity in extra of $4.5 million from Ohtani’s checking account. In line with a legal criticism launched final Thursday, the overall was really greater than $16 million. In a 37-page report containing a litany of data, statements and textual content messages, the accusations in opposition to Mizuhara backed up Ohtani’s claims that he was fully unaware of the funds. 

“He was exonerated, which all of us imagine,” Roberts mentioned. “I am simply pleased that it is behind us.” 

In line with the criticism, Mizuhara accompanied Ohtani to open the checking account in query in 2018, satisfied Ohtani’s representatives that their star athlete did not need them monitoring the account, modified the account’s contact info to his personal after he started accumulating playing money owed in 2021 and falsely recognized himself as Ohtani to deceive financial institution staff into authorizing wire transfers to the bookmaker. Transfers from the account had been allegedly made out of units and IP addresses related to Mizuhara.

Ohtani has not publicly addressed his response to the fees in opposition to Mizuhara but, besides to supply a brief remark to The Los Angeles Instances final week that he was “very grateful for the Division of Justice’s investigation” and that it’ll enable him “to give attention to baseball.”

That hasn’t gave the impression to be an issue for Ohtani, whose 15 extra-base hits by way of his first 16 video games had been essentially the most in Dodgers franchise historical past. He entered Monday with the 5 hardest-hit balls of the Dodgers’ season. 

“Simply pleased that there is a little bit extra readability, and Shohei can transfer ahead,” Roberts mentioned. 

The present goes on. 

Rowan Kavner is an MLB author for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand coated the L.A. Dodgers, LA Clippers and Dallas Cowboys. An LSU grad, Rowan was born in California, grew up in Texas, then moved again to the West Coast in 2014. Observe him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.

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Written by bourbiza mohamed

Bourbiza Mohamed is a freelance journalist and political science analyst holding a Master's degree in Political Science. Armed with a sharp pen and a discerning eye, Bourbiza Mohamed contributes to various renowned sites, delivering incisive insights on current political and social issues. His experience translates into thought-provoking articles that spur dialogue and reflection.

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