The Nichi Bei Foundation held its annual Nichi Bei Day with the Oakland A’s on May 15. The A’s hosted the Los Angeles Angels at the Oakland Coliseum, and the game featured the reigning American League MVP for the Angels, Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani has marveled fans as a two-way star in the Major Leagues as a starting pitcher and power hitter. His unique ability to excel as both a pitcher and hitter attracted more than 330 attendees to Nichi Bei Day.
The night before, Ohtani hit his 100th career home run in the majors. Ohtani wasted no time hitting his 101st home run, when he crushed a two-run shot in his first at-bat on Nichi Bei Day. Ohtani’s eighth home run of the season came on a 96-mph, belt-high fastball from Angels right-handed starter Frankie Montas.
Ohtani’s homer traveled 425 feet into the right center field seats, and rocketed off his bat at an exit velocity of 108.3 mph. Coming into the game, Ohtani had hit off of Montas well, batting .333 in 18 at-bats with two home runs.
Montas did not give Ohtani a chance to repeat his performance in his next plate appearance in the third inning. With a runner on third and one out, Montas intentionally walked Ohtani. That decision paid off for the A’s as both Angels runners were stranded with no runs scoring. However, Oakland was only able to push across one run, and fell to the Angels by a final score of 4-1.
Among the many Ohtani fans in the Nichi Bei section of the Coliseum was Elsa Renix from Sacramento, who sported an Ohtani Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters jersey, his former team in Japan. Renix became an Ohtani fan because of her mom, who had been following Ohtani since his playing days in Japan. May 15 was Renix’s first Nichi Bei Day at the Coliseum, but assured that it wouldn’t be her last.
“As long as Ohtani plays for the Angels and play the A’s, we’ll be here again,” she said.
Also in attendance from Sacramento was Priscilla Ouchida, the former national executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League. She brought a group of 12 people with her, including her nephews from Japan. Although she identifies as a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan, Ouchida couldn’t resist watching Ohtani play live with the full-thronged support of the Japanese American community.
“Shohei trumps everything. I’ve been a big fan of his since his Nippon Ham Fighter days,” she said. “I’ve been subscribing and supporting Nichi Bei for a long time, so it was irresistible to come here today.”
Ohtani is the third Japanese-born player to reach 100 career home runs in the Major Leagues, joining Hideki Matsui (175) and Ichiro Suzuki (117). Ohtani also joined Babe Ruth as the only players all-time with 100 home runs and 250 pitching strikeouts.
Ohtani was the unanimous 2021 American League MVP. He was the first unanimous American League MVP since his teammate, Mike Trout, won the award unanimously in 2014.
During his MVP campaign, Ohtani was the first American League player to tally 45 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 runs, and 25 stolen bases in a single season.