When Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani agreed to participate in the Home Run Derby — as well as the All-Star Game — fans were rightfully ecstatic about what he could accomplish. Hitting 33 home runs during the first half of the regular season, it was assumed he would simply crush baseballs en route to a win. However, he met one of baseball’s best power hitters in the first round in Juan Soto.
Soto hit 22 home runs in his four minutes of regulation time, giving Ohtani a difficult — but still manageable — goal. At first, it was disaster for Ohtani, who didn’t hit a single home run until the 10th pitch he saw, 50 seconds in to his initial three minutes. With 1:19 to go in his three minutes, he had just five, prompting a timeout call.
Angels teammate Jared Walsh then rushed over and handed him a phone, and we quickly learned that Mike Trout was on the other line. After the phone call and 45-second timeout, Ohtani went to work. He hit 17 home runs in that 1:19, leading to a tie between he and Soto.
Ohtani didn’t remember much about that call with Trout, he just remembered how tired he was, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“I was gassed so I can’t remember fully, but I think he just said relax and be yourself,” Ohtani said.
Soto and Ohtani got one extra minute to try and break the tie, with Soto hitting six during his round. Ohtani looked to be in the driver’s seat, hitting six to tie Soto with about 15 seconds left. However, he couldn’t get another one out of the park, collapsing in exhaustion after the round was over with a 28-28 tie.
“The last 30 seconds of both rounds were really exhausting,” Ohtani said. “I was gassed.”
It came down to a three-swing swing-off, and Soto did not disappoint. He waited for his pitches, and crushed three home runs in three tries. Ohtani had all the pressure of the baseball world on him, but hit a ground ball on his first pitch, sealing Soto’s win.
“It was fun,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, who also served as his catcher, while flashing a broad smile as reporters crowded around him in a tunnel outside the clubhouse.
“A lot more tired than during the season, for sure,” Ohtani said.
And to recharge for his performance in the game on Tuesday: “I’m just going to get as much sleep as I can,” Ohtani said. “That’s all I can do.”
In total, Ohtani hit 28 home runs in what wound up being the most exciting individual matchup of the entire Home Run Derby. And fans got exactly what they wanted from Ohtani, as he hit 15 of his 28 home runs over 475 feet. He hit six of those over 500 feet, including one at 513.
Ohtani won the night without getting out of the first round, as all eyes were on him, the same way they will be during Tuesday’s All-Star Game. In reality, Pete Alonso won his second Derby in two tries.
Ohtani to be the starting pitch and bat leadoff
When the American and National League teams take the field for Tuesday’s All-Star Game, Ohtani will once again be at the forefront. AL manager Kevin Cash announced on Monday that Ohtani would be the starting pitcher for the American League and would bat leadoff.