Shohei Ohtani didn't walk away with any hardware during All-Star Game festivities this week. But the Los Angeles Angels' two-way sensation captivated fans, both at home and abroad, and simply stole the show.
On Tuesday night, the Japanese superstar pitched a scoreless first inning -- including a fastball that reached 100.2 mph -- and went 0-for-2 at the plate in the American League's 5-2 win over the National League at Coors Field. According to Stats by STATS, Ohtani became the first player in MLB's modern era to start at pitcher, bat leadoff, and earn the win all in the same game.
"It was amazing. The Home Run Derby, the crowd was chanting his name. It was so cool to see," Denver sports reporter Troy Renck told After Hours with Amy Lawrence on Wednesday. "He's become the face of baseball this year. Even if you don't know baseball, just understand how historically significant Tuesday night's game was. The PA announcement said, 'Now starting at designated hitter and pitcher, Shohei Ohtani.' They've never done that. Now, they bent the rules to make this happen, but it's never happened.
"He is better than Babe Ruth, in some ways, because he's throwing 100 mph. He's got 33 home runs. He's bigger than you think, in person... The buzz was great around him. In the pregame before the Home Run Derby, to see a lot of Japanese fans wearing his jersey, were signed. There's a mania around him... He's become this kind of touchstone moment in time for that whole country, frankly, the way they are following him right now...
"He recognized the moment. Fans wanted him to do this. It's never been done, and frankly, I don't think it'll ever be done again. When Babe Ruth was pitching regularly and hitting homers, that's going back to like, 1912 to 1916. So, in my lifetime, I can't imagine I'm going to see another Shohei Ohtani..."
Ohtani, who launched a record six homers at least 500 feet in Monday's Home Run Derby, completed the first half of the season with a league-leading 33 homers and 56 extra-base hits. He also became the first AL player to reach 30 homers and 10 stolen bases in his team's first 81 games of the season.
As for his numbers on the mound, Ohtani owns a 3.49 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 86 strikeouts in 67 innings (13 starts). In his final first-half outing last Tuesday, the former Rookie of the Year completed seven innings of two-run ball against the Boston Red Sox, and also went 1-for-4 at the plate with an RBI double.
The entire MLB conversation between Renck and Lawrence can be accessed in the audio player above.