PRIDE AND INCREDULITY gripped Japan after baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani signed a record-shattering $700 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the richest in North American sports history.
The 10-year deal was announced after weeks of speculation about where the 29-year-old Los Angeles Angels pitching and hitting ace would land in free agency.
“Ohtani to go to Dodgers,” blared the headline of an extra edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s leading daily.
“The 10-year, 101.5 billion yen deal: the highest amount ever in sports history,” it said.
A special edition of the Iwate Nippo, a local newspaper in Ohtani’s hometown, featured a headline set against a blue background, the Dodgers’ colours.
Ohtani’s breathtaking contract featured prominently on almost all major news websites and Sunday talk shows in Japan, while also dominating conversations on X, formerly Twitter, for much of the day.
The excitement was echoed by Takahiro Ogawa, a shopper in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district.
“I was really amazed,” the 54-year-old told AFP, saying the size of the deal had surpassed even original speculation of a whopping 80 billion yen.
“I wish I could get a slice of it.”
Erika Iwasaki, 33, said she was proud of Ohtani.
“I was surprised at the price first, but I am really happy that a person who is valued so much is actually from Japan.”
“I am looking forward to knowing who will become Mrs. Ohtani,” she laughed.
Japanese media speculated Ohtani’s desire for a Major League Baseball title played a major part in his deal with the powerhouse Dodgers, perennial contenders in the playoffs.
“After his major league debut, Ohtani became the ‘world’s No.1 player,’ but always on the back of his mind has been a desire to become a member of the ‘world’s No.1 team’,” the Chunichi Sports newspaper said.
Asahi Shimbun also noted the Dodgers’ familiarity with Japanese players, having worked with greats such as Hideo Nomo in the past.
“The fierce competition over Ohtani, one of the most intense in the major league history, ended most ideally both for Ohtani and the Dodgers,” the Nikkei daily said.