What was Shohei Ohtani doing while a nation of baseball fans north of the border was losing its collective mind?
Chilling on his couch with his dog Decoy and following along as the madness unfolded, it turns out.
The Japanese superstar, who agreed to his $700-million US contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers this past Saturday, revealed some of the details of his free-agent frenzy at his introductory press conference in L.A. in Thursday.
Naturally, Ohtani was asked about the Friday follies a week ago, in which false reports had the Japanese superstar on a private plane to Toronto to be introduced as the newest Blue Jays sensation.
Ohtani was well aware of the rumours and the associated reports that followed, of course, and was kept apprised of the social media mayhem that was chronicling it all.
“I didn’t see the news itself, but people kept on asking me ‘Are you flying to Toronto right now?’” Ohtani told SportsNet Los Angeles through an interpreter. “So I was aware of that whole situation.
“But I was on my couch with the dog at the time.”
At the same time, presumably, Ohtani and his agent were wrapping up the final details of the deal with the Dodgers, news that the player himself would break on Instagram the following day. When the private jet that was reported to have the prized player on it landed at Toronto’s Pearson airport, those duped into thinking it carried Ohtani found out instead that Canadian businessman Robert Herjavec and his two daughters were aboard.
It was widely considered that the Jays were a finalist with the Dodgers, which fed into the flight tracking wackiness, the product in part of a false report that Ohtani was on his way to Canada. It is believed that the Jays offered the two-way phenom more than $500 million US and it’s certainly possible that their offer helped drive up the price Ohtani and his agent, Nez Balelo, extracted from the Dodgers.
The pursuit of the 29-year-old star was like nothing before seen in baseball, with mostly silence coming from the player’s side and demands for those teams trying to sign him to follow suit. At his Dodger Stadium news conference, Ohtani explained the strategy.
“Most of this is coming from my agent,” Ohtani said. “He is a professional. I let him do his thing. He kept me updated through the whole process. For the most part when (Balelo) was doing the talking, I was just walking my dog.”
Ohtani stuck with that approach in his first public appearance since the signing, refusing to acknowledge the teams — including the Jays — who were wooing him.
“Free agency is still going on and I don’t really want to mess with (other team’s) plans and I don’t want to say anything wrong,” Ohtani said. “So I don’t want to really talk about what talks I had with other organizations.”
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Besides the boatload of cash he’s getting from the powerhouse Dodgers, Ohtani spoke of his desire to be on a winning team as a main attraction to his new employer. After missing out on the playoffs in all six of his seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani is craving October baseball.
“When I had the meeting with the Dodgers ownership group, they said when they looked back as the last 10 year, even though they made the playoffs every single year, won one World Series ring, they considered that a failure.
“When I heard that, I knew they were all about winning and that’s exactly how I feel.”