“Hi. My name is Shohei Ohtani.”
When making art, whether we’re talking books, music, film, painting, etc., etc., one of the best mottos an artist can live by is “less is more”. Creating something beautiful, but still stripped down and simple, has a way of drawing in audiences and hitting a certain pleasure buttons in our brains. I think it’s because a piece of art, unencumbered by the weight of busyness and pretentiousness, lets its best, most interesting features or message speak for itself.
It’s confidence, really. Confidence in the idea or the melody or the story or whatever it is, enough confidence that the creator didn’t need any bells and whistles, no subtext or no MacGuffins, no shock value or extremism in order to get their point across, to move us. This can be felt in people, too.
You’ve met that totally nonchalant person, I’m sure, who is totally comfortable in their own skin, and comfortable with the mark they leave on the world. These people will often be of few words, but that’s fine because they let other things do the talking for them, and no matter what, we’ll all be listening.
“Hello. I’m Johnny Cash.” That’s how the legendary country singer starts off his classic song “Folsom Prison Blues” during his raucous Live at San Quentin LP, and for most Cash fans, those four words send chills down the spine and back up the neck.
The beat kicks in right after he coyly introduces himself, and all the years of hard livin’ and lovin’ he’d ever gone through are felt in that brief sentence, and again, it’s all due to the quiet, unwavering, unspoken confidence that makes you stop what you’re doing and pay attention to the record.
That’s how it felt today, at Angel Stadium, for the team’s big, open-to-the-public Ohtani introduction press conference. Ohtani, 23 years old, is finally coming to the big leagues, and yesterday we learned he’d be doing it as a member of the Los Angeles Angels. I’m still reeling and floating on air about the decision, as is everybody who is reading this right now (unless they’re a fan of the Rangers, Mariners, Cubs and a few other teams, I guess), but I was on a whole other level when Ohtani walked out on to the stage and, with his humble spirit and stoic voice, simply said “Hi. My name is Shohei Ohtani.”
Yep, there it is. Less is definitely more when it came to showing off Ohtani to the hometown crowd, as well as the slew of journalists, bloggers and tv personalities, but there wasn’t anybody who left the Big A without having felt they just received a great first impression from a true talent and an all around good dude.
Sure, he answered questions from the media, via his translator, but they were short and succinct, mostly, and they stayed within the realm of expected press conference answers. That’s not to say he didn’t choose his moments to dazzle us all with a damn good sense of humor, like when he said he originally wanted #27 for his jersey, but some other guy had taken it already. It’s just that the whole affair was there to show you a guy who doesn’t want to win your heart and mind behind a mic. He wants to do it at the plate, or from the mound. This is one focused phenom.
The goal of today was to introduce the fan base to Shohei Ohtani in the best way possible as far as the Angels are concerned, but in the most Ohtani-ish way possible, too. They are, as Billy Eppler and Mike Scioscia stressed this afternoon, committed to accommodating Ohtani and making him feel as cozy as possible when it comes to his transition to the MLB.
There were some answers to big, burning questions that we got from today’s presser, they just didn’t come all that much from Ohtani. For instance, we got a little better glimpse into the whole process of Billy Eppler, and his office of the GM, courting and acquiring the Japanese ballplayer.
We learned of big time presentations put together in-house as well as in conjunction with outside PR firms; we learned about Mike Trout being sprung on Ohtani, via Face Time chat in a boardroom, and leaving Ohtani as speechless as any other Trout fanboy.
Trout also hit a home run by telling him that the Angels’ fans are ones who will let him have his space and his privacy, and will treat him with respect when they see him around town, stuff like that, which put a smile on Ohtani’s face. Way to go, Trout. Coming through in the clutch, all while his wedding was on the immediate horizon.
Mike Scioscia mentioned that Ohtani would indeed be playing both sides of the ball, which caused the audience to erupt in a round of applause, naturally. Eppler made sure it was known that Ohtani would NOT be playing outfield at all in 2018, though, which was a weird idea in some fans’ heads lately. I did my best to let people know it wasn’t happening, but now they’ll be able to hear it right from Eppler’s lips.
After about 30 minutes, the presser was over and the media would then get some private time with the man of the hour, but not before he wished all of his new teammates well, especially Mike Trout and the wedding he’d be having that evening. It was another classy, respectful maneuver in an event filled with classy, respectful maneuvers, but the Halosphere in attendance, online or at home wasn’t going to tire of that any time soon. We all loved it, and we officially love Shohei Ohtani.
Of course we did. How could you NOT love him after today? We all had heard about the skills, but now we saw the man, and all of his quiet confidence was on display, with a side of indefatigable work ethic and enough love and respect for the game of baseball and the Angels organization to fill a stadium.
And he’s going to do just that in 2018, in our very own Big A. Hello, Shohei Ohtani. We’re the Angels fans and it’s very, very nice to meet you.