Japan's "Babe Ruth"

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May 9, 2002

Here is the story...

If you haven’t heard of professional Japanese baseball player Shohei Otani, don’t worry, he’ll be a household name soon enough. Touted as the next Babe Ruth, Otani is just as dominating at the plate as he is on the mound. This past season, the 22-year-old led the Nippon Ham Fighters to a Japan Series title with a 10-4 record, a league-best 1.86 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 140 innings. The young standout also spent three days a week as a designated hitter where his season-ending stats including a .322 batting average, 22 home runs, 67 RBIs and a 1.004 OPS. And he makes it all look easy.

Earlier in the season, Otani broke his own record with an all-time league best 101.9 mph fastball in September (only three MLB pitchers were clocked at 102 mph this season). Then this past weekend, in a World Baseball Championship exhibition game between Japan and the Netherlands, the pitcher/DH clobbered the ball so hard that it literally disappeared into the Tokyo Dome roof, to which we assume just flew clean out of the stadium. Unfortunately, however, due to stadium rules, the hit was turned into a double.

So you may be wondering, when will Otani join the MLB? The two-way player has only played four years in Japan, and will be eligible to join the majors after his ninth season. However the Fighters could post him before then and receive $20 million USD in return from the MLB team that wins his services. While general managers around the league anxiously wait for the announcement, pundits and GMs alike don’t think he’ll get the okay until the 2018 MLB season.

Let's watch Shohei Ohtani smash a baseball into the Tokyo Dome roof | MLB.com