Shohei Ohtani and his rise to superstar does not surprise this former teammate in Japan

Among the items found in the locker of Anthony Bass in the visiting team’s clubhouse at Angel Stadium is a black and gold jersey from their only season playing abroad. He expects the teammate of his that most people remember from that list to sign him over the next two days.

It was in 2016 that Bass came to Japan and played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Japan Professional Baseball (NPB) League. It was a year that helped the reliever resurrect his major league career, one that now has him playing in his second year with the Miami Marlins.

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It also gave him a front-row seat to the burgeoning career of one of Major League Baseball’s current superstars, two-way player and current AL MVP Shohei Ohtani. “It’s very special,” Bass said.

That goes for both Ohtani and the experience of playing in Japan. Nippon-Ham won the League championship in that series. Bass was a regular on the pitching staff, appearing in 37 games and pitching with a 3.65 ERA, with 71 strikeouts and 47 walks in 103 2/3 innings.

But seeing Ohtani’s rise in person added another layer to the experience and left no doubt in his mind that the Japanese star was going to stand out when he arrived in the MLB two years later.

“I always call him a 10-tool player,” Bass said Monday before the Miami Marlins will begin their two-game series against the Angels to cap a five-game road trip this season.

Photo: Japan Times

“He can fly down the line. He obviously has a tremendous arm. He throws 102 miles per hour. He has tremendous power at the plate. He’s like a video game character,” Bass added.

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Certainly the Japanese has left video game numbers throughout his career. He was the Pacific League MVP that 2016 season. On the mound, he had a 1.86 ERA with 174 strikeouts, 45 walks in 140 innings in 21 games including 4 complete games. As a hitter, he posted a .322 batting average with 22 home runs, 67 RBIs, and 65 runs scored in 382 plate appearances.

When healthy, he has shown that same success since making his MLB debut in 2018. He entered Monday with a career-high .883 in on-base percentage plus slugging, 93 home runs, 247 RBIs, 55 stolen bases, 237 runs scored and an ERA of 3.49 with 231 strikeouts, 75 walks in 188.1 innings.

“You see the highlights,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Just for someone to be able to do what he’s doing on the mound and at the plate, it’s pretty amazing that he’s able to do both at a really high level. We’ll get a chance to see him and hopefully we can keep him cool and he can warm up after “.

And while flashy stats stand out, that’s secondary in Bass’s eyes. Rather, it’s about Ohtani’s humility, even as his stardom grows. the reliever saw it in Japan, when the team was flying commercial flights and the crowd that wanted to see Ohtani in public “was like LeBron James walking through the airport.”

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Nippon-Ham teammates were trying to “get under his skin” so Ohtani would show off himself. He rarely worked. The one wise joke Bass remembers actually worked?

“Basically, it was along the lines of saying his back hurts from carrying the gear, one of those comments,” he said. “It was a joke. He made her smile,” she recalled.

The memories also made Bass smile. He signed to play in Japan after being released by the Seattle Mariners prior to the 2016 season.

The change of scenery and the opportunity to prove himself abroad paid dividends once he returned to the United States. Bass has mostly moved into high-leverage roles since he returned to the majors in 2017, posting a 3.82 ERA in 70 appearances for the Marlins last season.

“This game is so mental,” Bass said. “I just got my confidence back. I went there and I was successful. Winning the championship, playing postseason baseball in Japan, it set me up to come back here and give another shot in the big leagues. It helped me a lot, a lot.”

Source: miami herald

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Shohei Ohtani and his rise to superstar does not surprise this former teammate in Japan