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    Shohei Ohtani matches Hideki Matsui for most MLB home runs by Japanese-born player

    LOS ANGELES — It took one, authoritative swing Friday night for Shohei Ohtani to once again reach history and match an idol.

    No Japanese-born player in Major League Baseball history has ever homered more than baseball’s richest man after Ohtani walloped an outside fastball from San Diego Padres starter Michael King and drove it into the pavilions seating in left center field at Dodger Stadium in the Dodgers’ 8-7 loss.

    Career home run No. 175 leveled Ohtani with Hideki Matsui, the fearsome Japanese slugger for the Yankees, Angels, Athletics and Rays whom Ohtani has long described as an idol.

    “It’s an honor to be on the same stage as him,” Ohtani said through interpreter Will Ireton. “He’s known as a power hitter. Left-handed hitter like me. It’s just an honor to be associated with somebody like that.”

    For the Dodgers superstar, it’s a continuation of a torrid stretch at the plate that has come not just in the midst of a milestone chase that’s been well-covered by Japanese media, but also in the midst of a scandal involving his now-former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. Mizuhara surrendered to federal authorities on Friday after being charged for felony bank fraud and is being accused of stealing $16 million from Ohtani to back extensive gambling debts.

    Yet, Ohtani has appeared unfazed.

    “He’s very stoic,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Friday as his new designated hitter has gotten off to a 24-for-68 (.353) start with four home runs. “You just don’t know his emotions. He just comes in every day the same. You never know if things are good or things are bad, stuff on his mind. He’s just a pro. He just wants to play baseball.”

    In his first game since Mizuhara surrendered, Ohtani took a first-pitch sinker off the plate from King before unleashing his monumental swing, rocketing the ball 107.3 mph off his bat and well into the bleachers for a brush with history.

    The 29-year-old is one of three Japanese-born players (along with Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki) to even eclipse 100 home runs as a major leaguer. But to match Matsui — a two-time All-Star who has expressed mutual admiration for Ohtani, now a two-time MVP — brings added significance.

    “I’m very flattered,” Matsui said of Ohtani’s adoration in Japanese in ‘Shohei Ohtani: Beyond The Dream’ — a Disney+ production released this past winter. “Considering how far he’s come as a player and how huge his presence is in MLB, to hear Shohei Ohtani looked up to me like that when he was a Little Leaguer, I’m humbled to hear that.”

    Matsui signed a baseball for Ohtani for the project, joking, “I’m sure this is utterly worthless.”

    “This is awesome,” Ohtani responded in the film when given the ball, later adding, “I will treasure this.”

    Now he will have another baseball to treasure.

    Required reading

    (Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)



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