As Los Angeles Angels pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani has captured American baseball fans’ imaginations with his remarkable first two weeks in the major leagues, media coverage of him here in the U.S. has swelled enormously. But if you think stateside coverage of Ohtani is thorough, try checking out the Japanese media.
According to a fascinating feature from the Washington Post‘s Dave Sheinin, Ohtani’s starts have drawn about 120 Japanese reporters, with that number winnowing to 50 for his road games. That’s dozens of journalists assigned to cover a single baseball player.
As Sheinin explains, the Angels have had to get creative to accommodate all those media members. In Spring Training, they set up a giant tent for overflow media. And they also established a set of rules that are unusual even for high-attention stars. Via the Post:
Among the rules: no pregame media sessions. And no one-on-one interviews. Japanese media are encouraged to stay out of the clubhouse, which is typically open to the media several hours before first pitch, unless they have specific questions for Ohtani’s teammates — an edict that provoked few protests from Japanese reporters, because clubhouses in Japan are uniformly closed to the media.
Still, Ohtani meets with the media — first a generally small English-language session, translated by Mizuhara, then one with the larger Japanese contingent — after every game in which he appears. It is a concession that not even the biggest American superstars have to make. Even Mike Trout, Ohtani’s superstar teammate and two-time MVP center fielder, typically gets left alone after, say, a 1-for-4 night in a losing effort.
Ohtani might be the only player in the major leagues who is, by team rules, entirely unavailable to the media pregame — not only on days he pitches, but also on days he doesn’t.
To manage all these rules and all this commotion, the Angels have hired Grace McNamee, a Japanese-American who worked in media relations for the Dodgers when Hideo Nomo became the first modern Japanese star to play in America back in the 1990s.
Sheinin chronicles how grueling life can be for the reporters who must trail Ohtani at all times and chronicle his every move, and you have to imagine it’s also exhausting for the famously reserved Ohtani, as well as for manager Mike Scioscia, who must field endless Ohtani questions every day, and Angels players, who have to deal with the extra media members milling around.
But as long as Ohtani has a 1.183 OPS and a 2.08 ERA, the Angels will gladly tolerate the extra headaches, and the breathless Ohtani coverage on both sides of the Pacific Ocean will continue.