By Ken Reed

As we approach the one-third mark of the 2023 MLB season, it has become clear to me that Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani is underappreciated.

In the 150 years or so of Major League Baseball, we have never seen anything like what Shohei Ohtani continues to do in the dual role of pitcher and hitter. And I stress the word “never.”

The obvious comparison is Babe Ruth. But Ruth was first a pitcher and then became a hitter. There was only a short time where Ruth both pitched and hit during the same season. Once his immense power as a hitter was discovered, the Yankees made Ruth an everyday player and took him off the mound.

Perhaps the only comparison for Ohtani in terms of amazing athletic feats is Bo Jackson, who was both an elite outfielder for the Kansas City Royals and an elite running back for the NFL’s Raiders. It’s not quite an apples to apples comparison, however. That would have required Jackson to be both an All-Pro running back on offense and an All-Pro middle linebacker on defense.

“I just don’t know how you throw 101 and hit a ball 115 miles per hour off the bat,” said Mark Gubicza, former Royals pitcher and current Angel’s broadcaster. “I don’t know how you do that.”

The question is why isn’t Ohtani appreciated nationally more than he is. There are a few possible reasons: 1) Baseball is more of a regional sport than the NFL and NBA, as such, he doesn’t get as much national media coverage as football and basketball stars; 2) The Angels haven’t made the playoffs since Ohtani joined the team, so he hasn’t had enough time on the national stage; 3) Ohtani is from Japan and therefore, might not be idolized as much as an American-born athlete with Ohtani’s skills might be; and 4) In our high-tech, media-drenched society, everything pro athletes do is captured on video via traditional media and/or social media and so we’ve become desensitized to amazing athletic feats.

But what Ohtani is doing is truly special.

“It’s amazing how Ohtani actually transcends the modern thing where we have everything on video, so we feel like we’ve seen everything and it’s not that exciting,” says author Jeff Pearlman.

“It’s like, I’ve seen Kevin Durant hit a jumper, I’ve seen Ja Morant dunk, but there’s something about Ohtani doing stuff that no one’s ever seen before that almost defies technological access to everything.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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