Dodgers Baseball
Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani, with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, right, listens to a question as he speaks to media at Camelback Ranch in Phoenix, on Friday, the first day of spring training baseball workouts for the Dodgers. Photo: AP/Carolyn Kaster

Ohtani tries to blend in with Dodgers, even if that might prove impossible


Shohei Ohtani walked through his new spring training clubhouse wearing a simple white T-shirt with one word “BOSS” across the front in big, dark capital letters.

The two-time Most Valuable Player might not be in charge of these Los Angeles Dodgers, but there's little doubt who commands the most attention.

The 29-year-old Ohtani gave his first interview at Camelback Ranch as a member of the Dodgers on a chilly Friday morning, surrounded by more than 50 reporters who asked questions of baseball's first and only $700 million man.

It's these kind of scenes that make it hard for Ohtani to be just one of the guys.

But he's trying.

“I'm on a brand new team, so I'm going to act like a rookie,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “Try to get along with all the guys and teammates.”

The Dodgers had their first official workout of spring training on Friday, with pitchers and catchers reporting. Several hitters were also taking batting practice, though stars like Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman haven't yet arrived at camp. The Dodgers are the first of the 30 teams to start spring training ahead of their opener against San Diego on March 20 at Seoul, South Korea.

Ohtani's two-way superstardom is on hold for the 2024 season while he recovers from elbow surgery that will keep him off the mound. But he'll still be able to hit — and he does that quite well. The three-time All-Star hit .304 with 44 homers last season despite missing most of the final month of the season.

Now that he doesn't have to worry about pitching, those numbers could take another jump.

“I feel like there’s not just one level, but several levels ahead offensive-wise," Ohtani said. “It just depends on what kind of lineup I'm in.”

All signs point to the Dodgers having a stellar offensive lineup. Los Angeles could start a lineup that includes fellow All-Stars like Betts, Freeman, Max Muncy and Will Smith. Ohtani said he's ready to contribute.

“My swing — effort level-wise — is almost 100%,” Ohtani said. “My next step is facing live arms, some velocity.”

Ohtani's first year of his 10-year contract is one of the many storylines for the big-spending Dodgers, who allocated more than $1 billion to free agents. The Ohtani deal was even richer than many expected and then days later, Los Angeles landed right-handed pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto with a $325 million, 12-year deal.

Manager Dave Roberts said he's talked to Ohtani a few times already in Arizona, but is trying to give him space as he adapts to new surroundings.

“Everything he does is intentional, which is pretty amazing, but not surprising,” Roberts said. "I think right now, you see a lot of teammates trying to watch how he operates, learn what makes him tick, but it takes time. But I've still got to pinch myself to see him in a Dodger uniform.”

Roberts harkened back to his days as a player with the San Francisco Giants in 2007, when teammate Barry Bonds was chasing the all-time career home run record, and the media was a constant presence in the clubhouse.

“It's hard to ignore who he is as a ballplayer, the contract,” Roberts said. “But he wants nothing more than to win, and to win as a Dodger. That's why he chose to come here. I can speak for everyone in the organization — we could't be more excited.”

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“BOSS”...? That remains to be seen.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

Good luck this season.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Go get em, BOSS!

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Does he have his interpreter in the dugout?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

So he has been living in the States for years and still needs and interpreter?

-13 ( +1 / -14 )

Hed fit in a whole lot faster if he bothered to learn English. He lives in the states, works in the states, has done for years, but he still relies on an interpreter, not a great example to anyone.

-10 ( +0 / -10 )

I can't figure how learning English will make him a better athlete. Many players from other countries don't speak it or have a hard time with it. Ohtani can speak English a little, so he's working on it. In my years as an English as a Second language I learned that speaking is hard to learn at first but then, at some point students break through and pick it up quickly. Listening is more difficult and takes a while longer, but, again, there is a break-through point.

Give him time to learn. English is one of several very difficult languages to learn. Meantime, watch him play. With or without language skills he is one exciting player to watch.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

So he has been living in the States for years and still needs and interpreter?

Probably a few foreigners playing Japanese baseball and living in Japan for years who could use the same services. Heck, during my time in Japan in the 90s, there were non-Japanese-speaking Westerners at every type of employment from English teachers to military to ex-pats in business to spouses.

It is a privilege not to have to learn the local language, or to be able to have the best support money can buy while learning it. I suspect the latter is the case with Mr. Otani and his employer.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

He lives in the states, works in the states, has done for years, but he still relies on an interpreter, not a great example to anyone.

This is how the wealthy can afford to live. He probably has other people, paid for both by him and his employer, helping out in other facets of his life too. Instead of complaining and begrudging Mr. Otani's ability to create vast amounts of wealth, maybe we should be congratulating him instead?

He is not a billionaire mover-and-shaker nor an exploiter of people and resources, just a well-paid employee. So I stand in solidarity with him.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

So he has been living in the States for years and still needs and interpreter?

Hed fit in a whole lot faster if he bothered to learn English

No need. When you are as wealthy as BOSS, there is no need to focus on language learning. He can afford a team of translators, while dedicating himself to being the best athlete he can possibly be for his team.

Plus I'm sure Ohtani speaks English, but he can use his translators to speed up the time it takes to complete these multiple press conferences he has weekly. Again - more time for the enormous amount of training he does.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

When you have Boss San in your dressing room and knowing is his heads and shoulders above all the rest in the room it installs in team mates the want the hunger to preform to his level. Greatness is infectious.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Shohei is an ambassador for fashion brand “Hugo Boss” 2024 Spring and Summer collection.

He is wearing their clothes.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Shohei is an ambassador for fashion brand “ Hugo Boss” 2024 Spring/Summer Collection.

”BOSS” on his shirt is just a brand logo, no other meaning..

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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