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On Shohei Ohtani & first impressions with the Dodgers

Highlights from the first workout day at Camelback Ranch

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers-Workouts Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not necessarily a surprise to see the hordes of media waiting for Shohei Ohtani at Camelback Ranch. After all, he’s the most famous baseball player in the world who signed a record-setting contract with the Dodgers.

But it’s still quite something to see to the crush of people waiting on his every move, whether it’s from reporters and photographers lining up in Arizona ...

... or if it was the next-level reactions from the Dodger Stadium crowd at DodgerFest last Saturday, a sound usually heard in old videos of Elvis or The Beatles.

Even teammates spoke reverently about Ohtani, including those who have worked out with him at Dodger Stadium this season, like Walker Buehler and Gavin Lux, or others who got to know him for the first time last Saturday.

“It was awesome,” Lux told Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times. “Obviously everyone knows how good of a baseball player he is, but seeing the work that goes behind it is really impressive.”

The consensus is that, within baseball, Ohtani is one of one.

“Nobody is going to get the welcome that Shohei Ohtani is about to get,” Mookie Betts, himself a superstar and former MVP, said last weekend at Dodger Stadium. “So there’s no sense in me trying to explain what he’s about to get. I think I’m going to be giving him an ovation, just like everybody else is.”

Friday was the third time Ohtani talked to the media since joining the Dodgers, along with his December 14 introductory press conference at Dodger Stadium as well as last Saturday at DodgerFest.

“I’ve still got to pinch myself to see him in a Dodger uniform,” manager Dave Roberts said Friday at Camelback Ranch, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.

“I’m on a brand new team, so I’m going to act like a rookie,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, per David Brandt at Associated Press. “Try to get along with all the guys and teammates.

Dylan Hernández at the Los Angeles Times wrote about the importance of introductions in Japanese culture, and how Ohtani is navigating the early days of his time with a new team:

“There’s just a great sense of humility and kindness,” manager Dave Roberts said.

As well as Ohtani has presented himself, he remains concerned he could be on the verge of committing a major error. Specifically, he’s afraid he might introduce himself to the same person twice, which would be considered extremely disrespectful in his homeland.

“I have to remember [them] on the first shot,” Ohtani said with a laugh.

From Alden González at ESPN:

On Friday, Roberts confirmed what has long been obvious — that Ohtani, who underwent a hybrid version of a second Tommy John surgery in September, isn’t an option to pitch at any point in 2024. He believes having him as a Dodger will nonetheless “raise the bar” for the whole team, even though Ohtani is only fulfilling half his duties.

“There’s just a great sense of humility and kindness,” Roberts said of Ohtani, “but there’s that lion in there. You see it. And that, for me — that’s the perfect combo.”

Ohtani will only hit in 2024, so what the Dodgers are getting is someone who hit .277/.379/.585 with a 161 OPS+ while averaging 41 home runs the last three seasons. Just like during his introductory press conference in December, and again last Saturday at Dodger Stadium, Ohtani said his swing progression is going well after elbow surgery in September.

From Bob Nightengale at USA Today:

“My swing effort-level wise is about 100% right now,” Ohtani said. “My next step is facing live arms and facing some velo.”

Ohtani won’t be pitching this season, but after undergoing a second major elbow surgery in five years, he feels the lessons he learned from that rehab process will benefit him.

“This isn’t my first time doing this rehabbing while getting ready for the season,’’ Ohtani said, “so I feel like it will be easier.”

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