It seemed that all of Japan was waiting for this exact moment. Fans had been arriving at Tokyo Dome early just to see his greatest hits of batting practice. And with a casual, simple swing of his bat, Shohei Ohtani delivered.
In the first inning of what would be a Samurai Japan thrashed Australia 7-1Ohtani he threw a 70 mph curveball deep in the Tokyo Dome right field crowd.
In reality, the ball traveled so far that before seeing the slowed-down video of where it actually landed, it seemed to hit his face (okay, the giant billboard of his face along the back wall of the dome).
He barely looked as if he had exerted any energy at all, delivering an off-speed pitch that only the previous game seemed to throw him off. Not this time, though, and the pitch allowed Ohtani to hit his first home run of the season. world baseball classic.
“I had a chance early in the game,” Ohtani told reporters in Japan. “The pitch was a little low, but I’m glad I was able to swing it hard.”
Back in the crowd, the home run ball was being shared. The woman who caught it, Yuma Akatsu, passed the ball to those around her, so that others could take a picture of her holding a piece of history if only for a moment.
“It was a great experience,” Akatsu told MLB.com. “I am very happy that I was able to share that experience with everyone else.
“It’s a real honor to be able to catch him and it feels like I’ve used all the luck of my life,” he joked. Akatsu did not keep the home run ball, handing it over to Japanese baseball officials who asked for it.
Cheers began to blare on the broadcast before he dropped his bat and began jogging around the bases after his three-run homer. Just the third at-bat of the entire game, the third batsman Australia starter Will Sherriff faced, Ohtani drove in Japan’s first runs.
Japan already secured a place in the quarterfinals with their victory over the Czech Republic and have dominated their group during the opening stage of the tournament.
Now they await their next opponent, the runner-up in Group A; the teams in that group, which play in Taiwan, are Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Italy, the Netherlands and Panama.