Shohei Ohtani took his usual stance in the batter’s box, bat brightened, face solemn. The ball came his way and he swung and launched it to the sky, the arc of the ball’s path planting it on top of the minor league clubhouse.
“Man, how far do you think that was?” Angels outfielder Mike Trout said lightly.
This is a regular scene at batting practice when it’s Ohtani’s turn: Towering hits that the most valuable player of 2021 shows off just about every spring.
It’s quite a spectacle at the start of spring training. When on the lower practice fields, Ohtani usually hits on field 3, which is hard for fans to see, but his batting practices at Diablo Stadium are just as incredible.
From that lower field there are the balls that fly into the top of the palm trees and left behind some bushes. Those who found a spot on top of the clubhouse (and those who may or may not have cleared the building to the far right). And the ones that bounced into the top of the batter’s eye and the player’s parking lot (and the one that definitely hit a parked car) in the middle.
“I don’t know if he can afford all those cars,” joked Brett Phillps after Ohtani’s batting practice on Friday.
Actually, that day, the Orange Lutheran High baseball team was visiting Angels Camp as special guests of manager Phil Nevin, whose cousin plays on the team.
So a number of high school students watched in awe from behind the protective cage, as they picked up cell phones. As the ball bounced on top of the car, Ohtani’s hands went up in excitement and the young players screamed in delight.
“Did you see that?” they shouted to each other.
He’s not the only one to plant a few balls in extraordinary places during batting practice, though he’s a regular home run hitter during the sessions.
Trout, of course, is another regular big hitter, who has also thrown many baseballs past the outfield barriers for over a decade. As a right-handed hitter, many of his hits go into the trees and bushes on the left, as well as the parking lot — though not as many in the parking lot as Ohtani, he said.
“We’re having fun with it,” said Trout. “We push each other all the time. However, the balls he hit (Friday) were quite impressive.
In the main stadium, their hits go in similar directions, many of Ohtani and Trout’s fly balls landing in the trees and on the lawn behind the left field fence. In fact, in the past year, players have placed garbage cans on that lawn so that anyone doing batting practice can use it as a target, making it all the more fun.
Ohtani’s hits have also hit the scoreboard, daring to move closer to the top of the net, there to help protect cars in the parking lot behind the outfield. On Saturday, during Ohtani’s session, the few fans who hung around to catch him cheered as his first few balls hit the batter’s eye.
In Sunday’s home opener of the Angels’ Cactus League, Ohtani found that same path to the scoreboard, swinging toward him on the first pitch. The ball came up high, came down and hit the wall for a triple in the first inning.
It was the first time he hit with the new pitch clock in use.
“There’s a lot of mental work involved,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. ‘You have to think faster. If you think about what their pitch plan is, you have to think faster on that point too.”
Said Nevin of the triple, “I told these guys I don’t want them pushing the bases 100% just yet, but that’s probably a ball that’s as good an inside the park home run as it can run.”
The Angels defeated the Chicago White Sox 7-0 at Diablo Stadium.
After Ohtani scored in the first inning on a single by Anthony Rendon, Taylor Ward and Trout hit consecutive doubles and scored three runs in the second. Rendon and Hunter Renfroe hit consecutive solo home runs in the third.
Reid Detmers started with five strikeouts and gave up two hits in two innings.
Patrick Sandoval starts Monday against the San Francisco Giants and Ohtani takes the mound against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday.