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EDITORIAL | Shohei Ohtani Skyrockets to the Top and Japan Rejoices

Global superstars like Lionel Messi now rank below Shohei Ohtani on the list of top earners, so you can grasp how amazing the size of his new contract is.

Shohei Ohtani is simply mindboggling. 

A total of $700 million USD (around ¥100 billion JPY) is to be paid over an extended period. It's impossible to visualize just how much money that really is. When someone says that you could build two and a half Tokyo Skytrees for that kind of money, it just makes things all the harder to believe. 

Superstar Ohtani has chosen a new home in Major League Baseball. He is joining the Los Angeles Dodgers after spending the first six seasons of his MLB career with the Los Angeles Angels. The total value of his new contract is said to make it the largest contract anywhere in the world in the entire history of sports. 

When you see that giants in their respective sports, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in soccer and Patrick Mahomes in American football, ranked below Ohtani on the list of biggest earners you finally get a bit of a feel for how amazing Shohei's contract really is. It is a truly extraordinary thing. 

Pride of Professional Athletes

Current Samurai Japan manager Hirokazu Ibata, who himself enjoyed an illustrious career in Japanese baseball, says, "I'm proud that baseball is tops contract-wise for all sports and that that contract belongs to a Japanese player, namely Ohtani."

Doesn't Ibata's comment say it all? 

Even in Europe, where interest in baseball is not so strong, Ohtani will be recognized as a superstar thanks to this unprecedentedly large contract. That is because, for professional athletes, a contract represents not just a sum of money, but also a judgment of their stature. 

Shohei Ohtani in a LA Dodgers uniform (screenshot from ShoheiOhtani via Sankei Sports)

Dodgers Were the Pioneers

The Dodgers pioneered the hiring of Japanese players when they added pitcher Hideo Nomo to their roster in 1995. At that time, there was a huge backlash in Japan's baseball world when Nomo decided to try his luck in the United States. And, in 2003, when slugger Hideki Matsui opted to sign with the New York Yankees, he referred to himself disparagingly as a "traitor."

That seems like a very different era. Thinking has changed since the play days of Nomo and Matsui and the record-breaking batting exploits of Ichiro Suzuki, an MLB player from 2001-19. Not only in Japan but in the United States as well. These earlier players set the stage for Ohtani to step center stage and astound both the Japanese and US baseball worlds with his dual success as pitcher and hitter. 

Japanese soccer and basketball players are also active in various European countries and North America. It is no coincidence that they have been impacting each other in a good way. 

Shohei Ohtani is teaming up with New Balance Japan to donate baseball gloves to 20,000 elementary schools in Japan. (Provided by New Balance Japan)

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Setting Great Examples

The way Japanese athletes continue to seek a larger playing field will also surely have a positive impact on kids. 

Regarding his switching teams, Ohtani commented, "Until the last day of my playing career, I want to continue working positively not only for the Dodgers but also for the baseball world.'' 

Once again Ohtani is thinking very big. It's an attitude also clearly demonstrated in his previously reported gift of baseball gloves to every elementary school in Japan. 

No doubt Ohtani will continue to find worthy causes to spend some of his mammoth salary on. In the upcoming days as well, we are sure to be astonished by having him as a contemporary. And we will continue to thank him for all the joys and sorrows yet to come. 

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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