‘Simply thankful’ Shohei Ohtani calls MLB All-Star Game the most memorable experience of his career. He, the winning pitcher with his one inning of work, was easily the biggest and greatest star, no matter what the box score may read in the annals of All-Star Game history and received the loudest ovations by the sell-out crowd of 49,184.
Ohtani got the most accolades and tributes from his teammates. And no one came close to signing more autographs.
There may have been All-Stars all over the field, but only one was the centre of attention. The players came to Ohtani’s locker in waves wanting him to sign jerseys. Baseballs. Pictures. Bats. You name the item, Ohtani was signing it.
Every All-Star player, no matter how young or experienced, will forever remember the evening they shared with Ohtani.
“I kind of felt bad for him,’’ said Chicago White Sox All-Star closer Liam Hendricks, who preserved Ohtani’s victory with his save. “Of course, I got a ball signed by him. I may feel bad, but I’m not an idiot.
“He was definitely doing more than your average person, but I think everybody’s in awe of what he’s able to do.’’
He kept smiling, kept signing, and actually thanked his fellow All-Stars for even wanting his autograph.
“What Shohei is doing is unbelievably impressive,’’ Hendriks said, “but the most important thing I’ve recognized talking to Shohei is that no matter what he does on the field, he’s a better human being. I mean he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever spoken to in my life.
“He’s about as humble and gracious as they come. …The talent he has, and the hype surrounding him, I can’t fathom the ability he has to shrug it off. He doesn’t push people away. He’s just himself.’’
Who else would actually decline an invitation to appear in the interview room, and simply conduct interviews outside in the hallway, not wanting to take away the spotlight from anyone else?
It was almost as if he was embarrassed by all of the accolades and ovations he received.
“I was simply thankful,’’ Ohtani says, “for all the cheers and support I got.’’
He was the pitcher who drew the cheers with his back-to-back 100-mph fastballs against Nolan Arenado in that first inning, the fastest pitches he has thrown since his first start of the season.
“I was only throwing one inning,’’ shrugged Ohtani.
He was even cheered wildly for his two groundouts, one hit smack into the shift.
“I always hit it right to them in the shift,’’ Ohtani said, laughing.
Ohtani who arrived into town Sunday night feeling fresh, leaves Denver completely exhausted, but he still couldn’t stop smiling during his 72-hour binge.
“Definitely it was a lot more tiring compared to the regular season,’’ Ohtani says, “but I had fun.’’
He grounded out to second baseman Adam Frazier in the first inning.
He went to the mound and retired all three batters he faced, throwing six of 14 pitches at 97-mph or faster.