Shohei Ohtani is making noise on the mound and in the batter’s box, but he’s asking fans to keep quiet so they won’t disturb him.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, three Japanese exchange students were asked not to cheer too loudly for Shohei Ohtani so that he could focus on the game. The request didn’t come from Ohtani himself although he was aware of it.
I can’t believe this is real. Don’t cheer too loudly or you’ll distract the professional baseball player? That is unequivocally the most ridiculous request of all time. This guy was dubbed “The Japanese Babe Ruth”. Last time I checked fans, especially ones from Japan where he was treated like a baseball god, want to cheer for that guy.
Additionally, this story comes out at the absolute worst possible time—days before Ohtani pitches against the Boston Red Sox, one of the hottest offenses in baseball and an organization that gets strong fan support even when on the road. I can’t even imagine what would happen if this game was being played at Fenway Park, home to one of the most aggressive and ruthless fanbases in the league.
Even if it isn’t at Fenway, the Los Angeles Angels have opened the floodgates for Ohtani detractors to let him hear it every single time he plays on the road. If he couldn’t focus because of three fans who were cheering for him to play well in an otherwise quiet stadium, how can he be expected to focus in opposing stadiums where fans know that he can’t even handle noise supporting him?
I want to like Ohtani. I’m not thrilled about the fact that he didn’t even want to meet with the New York Yankees but as a baseball fan, it’s hard not to root for a guy that exudes passion for the game while doing things rarely seen. I mean this is a guy who passed up on what would have likely been tens of millions of dollars just to get to the big leagues early.
But I have a hard time believing he had nothing to do with fans cheering for him being asked to quiet down so he could focus on hitting.
He’s clearly absurdly talented and I lean towards the camp that would say this start is more or less what we can consistently expect out of him as a player rather than just a hot start driven by almost mystical kind of hype.
But he also seems to have problems with the attention that talent demands. If he can’t separate the spotlight from the game, he’s going to have a hard time playing on the road and in the big games when he’s needed the most.
If he can block out the attention that will inevitably follow him for his entire career, consider me aboard the Shohei Ohtani bandwagon. If he can’t, maybe it would have been wise to let the excitement grow for one more year before receiving a giant check.