Japanese Baseball 2-Way Player Shohei Ohtani Makes Impressive Debut

Japanese baseball 2-way star Shohei Ohtani is finding success in the Major Leagues. Ohtani's first home run came in his first plate appearance in Los Angeles on April 3. He homered for a second straight game the next day.

The 2-way player hit a 3-run home run at his first at-bat at Angel Stadium, surprising and delighting his fans. His first home game was against the Cleveland Indians.

When Ohtani returned to the dugout, he got the silent treatment from his teammates at first -- a customary prank to honor a big achievement in the Major League.

Ohtani was unstoppable. In his second at-bat, he got a back-to-back hit. He also had a third hit. He finished 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs.

Ohtani's homerun ball entered the right-center stands and was caught by a 9-year-old boy. Ohtani met the boy after the game and thanked him for catching the commemorative ball that became his first Major League homer. He handed the boy an autographed bat and they posed together for a souvenir photo.

Ohtani's Club Manager Mike Scioscia was impressed. He said, "He showed the power. He showed the ability to just square up a baseball, and he had a great night for us."

Ohtani said he felt great and was really happy that his first at-bat was at the home stadium and in a winning game.

The next day, Ohtani hit a second home run off Corey Kluber, last year's Cy Young winner for the American League. The award is given to the season's best pitcher.

Ohtani was modest, saying that the pitcher must have thrown a bad ball when he was at-bat, and that he was lucky to be able to hit it square.

Before the season started, Ohtani was struggling with his batting, and decided to change his hitting form. He stopped raising his leg high. He said he is now able to see the ball for a longer period as a result.

His performance enraptured the local media and won him a lot of fans. A US sports channel broadcast Ohtani's impressive debut extensively. An article featuring Otani also topped the Major League's official website.

Jun Ikushima, a sport journalist with extensive experience in Major League baseball, says most US commentators think Otani's 2-way skills may have become possible because he was playing in Japan. He says the power of Ohtani's batting has surpassed their expectations. Ikushima says some media are hopeful that Ohtani could bring about change to American baseball.

Who is Shohei Ohtani?

The star Japanese baseball player spent 5 seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan. The 23 year old is 193 centimeters tall, and is a 2-way player, having both good pitching and batting skills. He is a right-handed pitcher and a left-handed batter.

Ohtani garnered attention for clocking 160 kilometer-per-hour pitches, and for hitting 56 home runs as a high school player.

Shortly before Japan's professional baseball draft in 2012, Ohtani expressed his ambition to play in Major League Baseball.

He was the first pick for the Fighters. Ohtani joined the team after it came up with him a plan to train him as a pitcher-batter and support him in realizing his dream of playing in the major leagues.

Ohtani was a 2-way player from his first year with the team. In his second year, he was ranked third in the league with an ERA (Earned Run Average) of 2.61 as a pitcher. He ended the season with 11 wins, the most on his team. And he threw a 162 kilometer-per-hour pitch, tying a Japanese record at the time.

As a batter, he took the role of designated hitter, ending the season with a batting average of .274 and 10 home runs. He became the first player in Japan to have both double-digit wins as a pitcher and double-digit homers in the same season.

In his third year, his batting average was .202 with 5 homers. He was a standout among the team's starting pitchers, appearing in 22 games and ending the season with 15 wins, 5 losses and an ERA of 2.24.

He also held the distinction of having the most wins, the best ERA, and the highest winning percentage.

In his 4th year, Ohtani amassed 10 wins as a pitcher with an ERA of 1.86. He also threw Japan's fastest pitch, clocking in at 165 kilometers per hour. As a batter, he beat his personal record, hitting 22 homers. He became the first player to win Japanese baseball's Best Nine Award as both a pitcher and a designated hitter.

After his 5th season with the club, Ohtani announced in last November he would play in the MLB, achieving his long-held ambition and a new level of stardom.