Japanese fans elated with Shohei Ohtani’s US$700 million record deal with Los Angeles Dodgers after 6 years with LA Angels

People in Shohei Ohtani’s home prefecture and cities across Japan were elated on Sunday by the two-way star’s record US$700 million, 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani grew up in the small city of Oshu in Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan, before rising to stardom in Japanese baseball and then as an international sports phenomenon.

“I can’t take my eyes off Ohtani’s moves,” said an excited Tsubasa Kamata, a 41-year-old from Morioka, the prefecture’s capital city. “It’s impressive that he has agreed to the biggest contract ever. I hope he’ll do his best without pushing himself too hard or getting injured.”

An extra edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reporting on Shohei Ohtani to move to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday. Photo: AP

The local Iwate Nippo newspaper published about 16,000 copies of an extra edition the same day, reporting on Ohtani’s free agency decision with the headline in Dodger blue.

Akihisa Suzuki, 31, who picked up a copy in front of JR Morioka Station, said, “I’ve been following Ohtani since his high school years. I want to cheer him on wherever he is.”

People flocked to Ohtani’s old high school, Hanamaki Higashi, on Sunday morning, and took photos of a monument that displays his handprint.

“His desire to win might’ve been the decisive factor [for choosing the Dodgers],” Hisako Mikami, 46, said with a smile. “I want him to hit a lot of home runs for his new team.”

Extra editions were also distributed in cities across the country including Tokyo and Osaka on Sunday, with people rushing to grab a copy as a keepsake of the occasion.

Shohei Ohtani has signed the richest contract in North American sports history. Photo: Reuters

Toyoko Koike, a 71-year-old housewife from Tokyo, said she respects not only his play but his conduct and mannerism, adding, “I hope we can watch him play at a high level for a long time.”

Hisashi Yamahara, 52, from Izumi, Osaka Prefecture, said he hopes Ohtani “will return to Japan someday and elevate baseball here.”

There were also fans hoping Ohtani will win more awards and titles in Major League Baseball after overcoming injuries that curtailed his 2023 season.

“I want him to recover from the elbow injury first and earn the most wins and home run titles as a two-way player,” said a 37-year-old fan. “He is the pride of Japan.”

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