If you watched my interview with Jeff Fletcher, you’d have seen we launched a contest to win a free copy of his book on Shohei Ohtani. The contest: write a fan post about your favorite Ohtani memory or story.
I’ll get us going here, but my entry is not eligible to win. Please post your story by Friday, July 29th and the winner will be selected.
Here we go:
Baseball has been the background for so many great memories in my life. My first baseball memories are of listening to games in my dad’s truck as we went past the fields in the Central Valley. Later they are watching games with family and friends while trying to avoid the Bakersfield heat during the summer. Catching a Cubs game on WGN during high school summers was nice, too.
The greatest joy baseball brings me is time at the ballpark with loved ones. And there’s no one I love more than my son. He was born in the Fall of 2017, just a few months before Shohei Ohtani announced he was coming to Anaheim.
And it just so happens that my first game with my son was Ohtani’s home debut on the mound.
I’d picked a Sunday afternoon game figuring it wouldn’t be packed. That I’d take the little guy for an hour or so as the first step in what I hoped to be a lifelong shared experience. A Sunday game, nice and mellow. And in the shade.
This Sunday afternoon game was unlike any other. For one the parking lot was packed well before first pitch. We walked past about a dozen tour busses on the way to the front gate. There was an electricity in the air that is missing most Sunday games.
I snapped a couple of pictures with my bundle of joy in his Angels onesie and bib, headed to the Club Level, and saw a packed house. The sold out crowd had come to see Ohtani and he was majestic that day. In fact, he carried a perfect game into the 7th inning.
I was riveted by the game and couldn’t leave so we went to the restaurant out in right field so my son could have some quiet, some AC, and take a nap on Daddy.
Ohtani finally gave up a hit. His day was no longer perfect. But for me, standing there holding my son at the game, it was the most perfect day ever.
Here is my Ohtani story and it has nothing to do with watching him hit or pitch.
The day that Ohtani chose the Angels out of 30 teams was really the last time I felt optimism for this franchise. That was a brief moment where it felt that the Angels had actually won something big and were the envy of the rest of MLB. As an Angels’ fan, it gave me a feeling of Southern California legitimacy which had been waning due to multiple mediocre seasons and the rise of the Dodgers. At that time, the memory of DiPoto walking out on the Angels midseason was also fresh in my mind, so it felt a bit like comeuppance that Ohtani chose Anaheim over Seattle. It also gave me a feeling of hope that maybe this was the break that the team needed after so many bad signings. Maybe this was the good luck to offset the bad luck of the Wells trade and the Hamilton and Pujols signings and failures. Maybe, just maybe, the franchise was going to turn things around with this player who immediately was ranked the #1 or #2 prospect in all of baseball. He immediately brought the Angels from the bottom to the middle-of-the-pack in terms of farm system ratings.
Accordingly, I have always associated Ohtani with optimism. The fact that it has not worked out for the Angels even with Ohtani and Trout is unfortunate. But, that day when Ohtani chose Anaheim over everyone else was very special to me as an Angels fan.
I was there for that game, with my grandmother who has been an Angels fan since way back when she had season tickets to see Nolan Ryan pitch. She said it was the best game she’s ever seen, and I know she’s seen a couple Ryan no hitters.
I think that game was even better than the Kluber homer.
Agreed JJ. You win. So many great moments which I’ve been lucky to catch on TV. His charm is so unique, so I go back when he got the silent treatment following his first homerun. His antics and grabbing Kinsler still makes me laugh. Focused guy, but has that down to earth friendly silly vibe. ⚾️
Awesome story – never forget this.
Sorry, you win Jeff. Great story.