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Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is named AP male athlete of the year

A smiling Shohei Ohtani receives high fives with both hands in the Angels' dugout after hitting a home run.
Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani has been named the Associated Press male athlete of the year.
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani, who redefined modern baseball with his two-way play in 2021, has been named the Associated Press’ male athlete of the year.

The unanimous American League MVP put together a season like no other in the past century of his sport. Almost no one had been an everyday two-way player for many decades — and nobody has been both one of baseball’s top power hitters and one of its best starting pitchers since Babe Ruth in 1919.

“He’s doing something we haven’t seen in our lifetimes, but he’s also doing it at the very highest level of hitting and pitching,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said late in the regular season. “He’s doing more than other players, but he’s also doing it better than almost everybody else on that field, and those are the greatest players in the game, his contemporaries. He’s playing their game, but he’s also playing a different game.”

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Ohtani hit 46 homers and drove in 100 runs with a .965 OPS while playing in 126 games as the AL’s best designated hitter, as evidenced by his Silver Slugger award. He finished third in the majors in homers after leading the sport for much of the season.

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Ohtani also started 23 games on the mound, going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts over 130 1/3 innings as the Angels’ ace and one of the AL’s top right-handers. He has a 100-mph fastball, but his splitter might be the best pitch in baseball, with movement that resembles a ball rolling off the edge of a table.

The 6-foot-4 star also was among the fastest baserunners in the majors while stealing 26 bases and scoring 103 runs. He even led the league with eight triples — and he also played a little outfield when asked.

Mike Trout, Ohtani’s three-time AL MVP teammate, called Ohtani’s season “nothing short of electric.”

Despite his soft-spoken personality and single-minded focus on his sport, Ohtani has become an icon wherever baseball is played and a known figure even beyond the game’s traditional borders.

Speaking to the media in Japan, Shohei Ohtani says he’s disappointed with how the season went for the Angels but also called it ‘a wonderful year.’

“I’ve never seen fans get to ballparks so early and stay to the end,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said in July. “That’s what he’s bringing to the equation. I love it. Seems like every pitch when he’s at the plate, you can hear the oohs and aahs. I think it’s great for baseball.”

Ohtani’s achievements are even more impressive because they’ve happened with the Angels.

With Trout missing nearly the entire season due to injury, the Angels won only 77 games, missed the playoffs for the seventh straight year and posted their sixth straight losing record. Ohtani accomplished his feats at the plate with an often subpar lineup protecting him in the batting order.

“Just a fabulous, fabulous year,” Maddon said. “There’s only one person that can duplicate it. That would be him.”


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