Shohei Otani’s pitching skills make him a hot commodity in the baseball world, but his slugging ability could make him a legend.
The Japanese baseball star hit a ball into the roof of the Tokyo Dome on Sunday in Japan’s 12-10 exhibition win over the Netherlands. Per Tokyo Dome rules, umpires awarded Otani a double. But the stunned looks on the faces of his Japan teammates suggest he’s a special talent.
Ex-New York Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui struck a ball into the roof of the famous venue in 2002. While Otani appears to be following in the footsteps of Japanese baseball Giants, he actually could be blazing his own trail.
Otani, 22, has proven himself to be an outstanding hitter, pitcher and champion in Japan’s top league, the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, according to GQ.
“This past season he put up a ridiculous 1.86 ERA with 174 strikeouts, while routinely throwing over 100 MPH,” GQ’s Jack Moore wrote Sunday. “At the plate he hit 22 homers and had a slash line of .322/.416/.588. (For sabermetrics geeks, that’s good for an incredible 1.004 OPS.)”
Otani’s club, Nippon Ham Fighters, might not make him available to major league teams this winter, so the 2017 World Baseball Classic could be U.S. fans’ best chance to watch him in the near future.
Chase Field, Marlins Park, Miller Park, Minute Maid Park and other major-league stadia with roofs are safe … for now.