Baseball All-Star Game Becomes Greatest Show On Earth
Speaker 1: 00:00 As major league baseball fans gather in Denver today ahead of the league all star game one player is drawing the attention of fans and commentators alike show. Hey, Atani has been selected as the American league starting pitcher, a feat made even more impressive given that he also leads the MLB and home runs. The two way athlete from Japan is having a breakout year and it's quickly solidifying himself as one of the greatest spectacles in professional sports today. Joining us with more on Otani is historical year is Jay Paris, a San Diego sports writer and author of the book show. Hey, Otani the amazing story of baseball's two way Japanese superstar, Jay. Welcome back to the program. Hi Speaker 2: 00:41 Jay. Thanks for having me always nice to be here. Speaker 1: 00:44 Absolutely. So you originally wrote this book back in 2019 when Otani was an emerging star. How has his standing in the league changed since then? Speaker 2: 00:54 Um, you know, he was a big star in Japan and he came over here in 2018 and was the American league rookie of the year had a pretty good year. Uh, but he got hurt and, uh, his, uh, wasn't able to pitch as much as he wanted to. Now we're seeing a fit show, Hey, Otani this is what he did in Japan. Maybe back in 2016 or so when he led the Japanese league and every category and it took the ham fighters to, to their world series. So, you know, you look at them and if you saw show, Hey, play before, and you knew of his capabilities and his upsides, you would be amazed and stunned, but you really wouldn't be surprised, but the people are seeing them now for the first time. And like I said, he's been healthy. So he's been hitting a lot, then pitching a lot, uh, been in the mix of things. Other people are seeing them it and he blows them away. I mean, uh, the all-star game on Tuesday night show belongs on Saturday morning cartoons. That's the kind of character he is. He throws a ball a hundred miles an hour. He hits the ball 450 feet. He's among the fastest players in the league. So you put this all together and he's not a baseball player. He's a cartoon superhero, if you will. I guess Speaker 1: 02:08 That speaks to why he's currently the subject of so much fascination within the sport. I mean, tell me some more about that. Well, Speaker 2: 02:14 I think it's also his global effect. Uh, you know, it's hard to gauge or to overstate how popular baseball is in Japan and how popular show Heyo. Tommy is. Remember Shohet was a star in high school. He threw the ball a hundred miles an hour when he was in high school. And the high school baseball tournament in Japan is on the level two, maybe the final four of men's basketball here at the collegiate level. I mean, it's a nationwide big deal and show. Hey, told everybody I'm playing in high school and I'm going straight to the majors. Well, the ham fighters drafted him, talked him into staying in Japan. And when he decided to stay in Japan and work on his craft at the very fine level of the Nepal baseball league, I mean, his popularity grew even more because he stayed home and stayed, stayed in. Speaker 2: 02:59 So when he did decide the time was right to go to the majors, to try this unprecedented feat of pitching and hitting at the highest level in the highest league. When he left Japan, he left with the nation on his back. Everybody roots for show hate. They stay up till two or three in the morning to watch his starts. If they have a survey with grandfathers asking who would they like their grandson to be it show hate. If they asked mom who would they like to see their daughter married? It show hate. If it's a big brother asking who would like their little brother to be is showing. It's just unbelievable that popularity and that bears itself out. If you're able to go to angel games, especially in Anaheim where the Japanese contingent and the, the fans are on a different level of a game when Shohet pitches is more of a party than a baseball game, Speaker 1: 03:48 You know, for people who are just really unfamiliar with the sport. Can you explain why Otani is such a phenomenon in baseball right now? Yeah. It'd be like Speaker 2: 03:56 You starting your broadcasting career and right off the bat, they compared you to Barbara Walters. It'd be like, be a painter being compared to Michael Angelo. I mean, this guy is being compared to one player and one player over only, and that's babe Ruth, even people that aren't, uh, up on baseball or consider themselves a seam head to follow every, every pitch, everyone practically, everyone knows babe Ruth, this is who he's being compared to. These are the, um, the accomplishments, the feats that he's surpassing, babe Ruth. I mean, we're talking 19, 19, that's a long time ago. This he's matching something that hasn't been done in almost over a century. So I think it speaks to the significance of what he's doing, but also the significance of how rare it is. I mean, I don't know if he's going to be able to do this for five years. He may get hurt tomorrow, but this is one of the most historic baseball seasons ever in the game of baseball and major league history. So, you know, enjoy it right now. Will it last, nobody can tell you, but what this man is doing is absolutely amazing. Speaker 1: 05:02 Where is it for a player like Otani to come along Speaker 2: 05:05 More as the game evolves, the game grew, it grew into a specialization. You were a hitter or you were a pitcher, you know, except when you were a kid, you know, when you pick teams in Sandlot or, and literally very often the shortstop or the best hitter on the team is also the best throw or the best pitcher on the team. So in the youth level, uh, you know, literally pony league high school, if you will, you know, you can pitch in hit, but the competition is so keen in a game, which is built around failure. Remember the great Tony Gwen, he failed seven out of 10 times. They built a statue of him that illustrates how difficult this game is. So for D to be a player and to convince management, could convince coaches, convinced teammates, Hey, I'm going to hit and pitch at the major league level. They look at you like you have a screw loose, no way. It's so hard just to Excel in one disciple of baseball, that to try to do pitch and hit is unheard of Speaker 1: 06:00 Addition to starting the pitching off for today's game. He also participated in yesterday's home run Derby. When is the last time something like that has happened? Speaker 2: 06:10 Uh, I think the year was 19. Never. Nobody's never had done the home run Derby, uh, pitched in and was the lead off batter. And it's not surprising his, his, uh, production in that home run Derby. He was with the angels, played in, in Colorado a couple of years ago and interleague play and, and he was hitting the ball up in the triple deck up where nobody's ever hit it before. So the combination of his raw power with the baseballs flying at mile high elevation, he's really made for the home run Derby. And that's why so much fun as he's in it. Speaker 1: 06:41 Success here in the major leagues, boosted the popularity of American baseball back in his home country of Japan or in particular, the, the popularity of the angel. Speaker 2: 06:51 Absolutely. And you see it at angel stadium. You see it really we're show, Hey, place, nowhere, no matter where show, Hey plays the major league baseball, a strong agent, a contingent of fans show up now where they fans before show, Hey, got here maybe, but I don't know. It certainly seems like there's a lot more fans with signs and blowing horns and, uh, people wanting to, to meet them. But I think Japan, it's, it's hard to overstate how popular baseball is in Japan and for them that's, that's like their number one sport is, is hard to believe for them to have the number one player in their number one sport and the significance of a Japanese man doing it, you know, in the U S and everybody just swelling up with that pride in Japan, uh, it's increased the popularity for sure. And I think you mentioned the marketing angle too. There's a lot more Japanese advertisements, a lot more advertisements for Japanese products at angel stadium and radio and TV. So, so that reach that umbrella. What Shohet has brought to America, it just continues to grow. Speaker 1: 07:53 Ben speaking with San Diego sports writer, Jay Paris, Jay, thank you so much for joining us, Jay, always nice to speak with you.