Even a Shohei Ohtani batting practice session is a spectacle to behold
Shohei Ohtani took his usual stance in the batter’s box, bat perked up, face solemn. The ball came his way and he swung, launching it toward the sky, the arc of the ball’s path planting it on top of the minor league clubhouse.
“Man, how far do you think that was?” Angels outfielder Mike Trout said lightly.
This is a regular scene at batting practice when Ohtani is up: Towering hits that the 2021 most valuable player shows off just about every spring.
It’s quite the spectacle early in spring training. When on the lower practice fields, Ohtani usually hits on Field 3, which is hard for fans to see, but his batting practices at Diablo Stadium are equally as incredible.
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From that lower field, there are the balls that fly into the top of the palm trees and behind some bushes to the left. The ones that found a spot on top of the clubhouse (and the ones that may or may not have cleared the building entirely to the right). And the ones that bounced into the top of the batter’s eye and the players’ parking lot (and the one that definitely hit a parked car) in the center.
“I don’t know if he can pay for all of those cars,” Brett Phillips joked after Ohtani’s batting practice session on Friday.
Actually, that day, the Orange Lutheran High baseball team was visiting Angels camp as special guests of manager Phil Nevin, whose nephew plays on the team.
So a number of high schoolers watched in awe from behind the protective cage, cellphones recording. As the ball bounced on top of the car, Ohtani’s hands went up in excitement, and the young players yelled in delight.
“Did you see that?” they exclaimed to one another.
He’s not the only one that’s planted a few balls in extraordinary places during batting practices, though he is a regular home run hitter during the sessions.
Trout, of course, is another regular big hitter, who has also littered many baseballs past the outfield barriers for more than a decade. As a right-handed hitter, many of his hits go into the trees and bushes to the left, as well as the parking lot — though not as many in the parking lot as Ohtani, he said.
“We have fun with it,” Trout said. “We push each other all the time. The balls he was hitting [Friday] were pretty impressive though.”
In the big stadium, their hits travel in similar directions, many of Ohtani and Trout’s fly balls landing in the trees and on the lawn beyond the left field fence. In years past, players have even placed trash cans on that lawn for everyone at batting practice to use as targets, to add to the fun of it all.
Ohtani’s hits have also smacked the scoreboard and dared closer to the top of the netting, there to help protect cars in the parking lot beyond the outfield. On Saturday, during Ohtani’s session, the few fans that hung around to catch it cheered as his first few balls smacked the batter’s eye.
In the Angels’ Cactus League home opener Sunday, Ohtani found that similar path toward the scoreboard, swinging at the first pitch to him. The ball popped up high, then came down and hit the wall for a triple in the first inning.
It was his first time hitting with the new pitch clock in use during a game.
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“It’s a lot of mental that comes to it,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “You got to think faster. If you think about what their pitch plan is, you have to think faster on that part too.”
Said Nevin of the triple: “I told these guys, I don’t want them pushing 100% on the bases yet, but that’s probably a ball that’s an inside the park home run as well as he can run.”
The Angels beat the Chicago White Sox 7-0 at Diablo Stadium.
After Ohtani scored in the first inning on a single by Anthony Rendon, Taylor Ward and Trout hit consecutive doubles to score three runs in the second. Rendon and Hunter Renfroe hit consecutive solo home runs in the third.
Reid Detmers started, striking out five and giving up two hits in two innings.
Patrick Sandoval starts Monday against the San Francisco Giants and Ohtani takes the mound Tuesday against the Oakland Athletics.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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