When the Shohei Ohtani experience rolled into Miami to take on the Marlins at loadDepot Park I knew I had to be there. Lucky for me the game I photographed was the one where he was also the starting pitcher so I got the full Shohei Ohtani experience. And let me tell you, Ohtani did not disappoint.
This wasn’t my first time photographing Shohei Ohtani. Last season I photographed him when the Los Angeles Angels played the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL. This time was different. There were no longer Covid protocols to abide by and I could get up close and personal with the reigning MVP.
I knew there was a huge contingent of Japanese press that follows Ohtani, but I guess I failed to factor in the American media that was there to witness this generations Babe Ruth. For batting practice there wasn’t an inch of real estate that wasn’t occupied by either a reporter or photographer. I know people were disappointed that Ohtani didn’t take BP and he rarely does. He usually works out with the pitchers and takes his BP swings in the cages inside stadiums.
My goal for this game was simple, photograph Ohtani and then photograph him some more. And of course get Mike Trout and game coverage, but yeah; I was there for Ohtani and I was going to get my camera clicks worth.
It really didn’t hit me how popular Ohtani is until he walked out to warm up to pitch. People were calling out to him. Hand made signs in Japanese and English were hoisted high above fans’ heads and camera phones were pointed at his every move.
If I had to compare the Shohei Ohtani experience to another cultural event, I would have to say it was on par with the Beatles invasion. I think he is that big if not bigger. Sounds crazy, but Ohtani mania runs rampant in every MLB ballpark.
Hell I was fascinated as well. I’ve never witnessed anything or anyone like him before. Our generation’s Babe Ruth. It wasn’t hard to be drawn into Ohtani mania.
Now I said I was going to get my fill of Ohtani photos and I did. From him warming up to the bullpen to every angle pitching covered including running up to the empty upper deck to get overhead shots; I wasn’t missing an opportunity. From the time he first made it up the steps for his first at bat I was there making sure I didn’t take my eye off of him. Well, I did briefly to get Mike Trout as well.
He seems quiet and reserved and maybe he is, but when is playing he is anything but. He showed a lot of emotion and when he was in the dugout he had his head buried in an iPad going over tape. I was impressed with how much he studied in between innings.
And in Ohtani fashion he made history. Shohei Ohtani is the first player since RBI became official in 1920 to do all the following in a single game: 10 strikeouts as a pitcher – 2 RBI as a batter – a stolen base. “Shotime” was in effect.
I hope I get more opportunities to photograph Ohtani. It was a hell of a experience.