“I could never get it out of my own mind what I saw,” Minasian said. “He was as talented as any player, from an age standpoint, as I’ve seen. There are things that he can do on a baseball field that other people can’t.”
Ohtani, whose father played baseball in Japan’s industrial league and whose mother was a standout badminton player, recognized that as a youngster. He hoped to leap straight from high school in Japan to the major leagues in the United States. He told this to clubs before the 2012 Nippon Professional Baseball draft and emphasized it to Hokkaido when it informed him it wanted to make him the No. 1 overall pick. The Los Angeles Dodgers were keenly interested at the time, but Hokkaido lured him with the idea of allowing him to pitch and hit.
Takashi Ofuchi, the Fighters’ amateur scout group leader who evaluated Ohtani for years and helped develop the plan, told Bleacher Report in 2017: “If a person has the possibility to do everything, we need to look at that person and his talent and bring his skills along all at the same time. It’s like Michelangelo and Einstein. They could do art, science, everything.”
Ohtani has been painting with bold, broad brush strokes ever since. And in an age of specialization, the Angels and Ohtani are zigging while everybody else is zagging. Why, indeed, place a fence around creative genius?
Through Wednesday he was ranked second in the majors in home runs (10) and extra-base hits (21) and tied for third in total bases (78). On the mound, he is 1-0 with a 2.10 E.R.A. over five starts with 40 strikeouts and a .126 opponents’ batting average. He even leads the Angels with six steals.
In Seattle a couple of Sundays ago, he was hit by a pitch and immediately stole second and third. “I could not have loved that moment any more,” Maddon said.
In a precautionary move, the Angels moved his start, which had been scheduled for the next day, to midweek, but he still smashed a two-run homer and circled the bases to chants of “M.V.P.! M.V.P.!”