If you think you know who the best athlete in the world is, you may want to think again.
It could be basketball’s LeBron James, soccer’s Cristiano Ronaldo or Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky.
But the days surrounding Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in Denver, Colorado – played Tuesday night -- demonstrated the abilities of Japan’s Shohei Ohtani.
A member of the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani is in his fourth baseball season in the U.S. after starting his career in Japan. At the age of 27, Ohtani is the first-ever player selected to pitch and hit in an All-Star Game.
The game celebrates the best hitters and the best pitchers of the season. A pitcher starts the action in baseball by trying to throw the ball past a hitter.
On Tuesday night, Ohtani opened the game as the first hitter for the American League team. At the bottom of the inning, he pitched against hitters from the National League team.
The 2021 season is a little more than halfway done. So far, Ohtani has 33 home runs, the most in all of baseball. A home run is a long hit that counts for at least one “run” in baseball. Ohtani has also pitched 13 times for the Angels this year. He is good at preventing the other team’s hitters from hitting the ball.
Last April, in a game against the Chicago White Sox, Ohtani threw a baseball at the speed of 162 kilometers per hour. He then hit a baseball that traveled 185 kilometers per hour.
Baseball experts compare Ohtani to the famous New York Yankee, Babe Ruth. Ruth pitched and hit early in his career. But he is better known for his long home runs in the 1920s and 1930s. Ruth probably could have been the first chosen to both hit and pitch in the baseball All-Star Game, but the event started in 1933 after Ruth had stopped pitching.
Baseball’s best players are impressed with Ohtani’s ability to both pitch and hit. Most think doing just one thing is hard enough.
Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves is one of baseball’s best hitters. He said he used to pitch when he was young, but not anymore. “Anytime he’s on the field, you’re just amazed that he has the energy – the mental energy – to handle all that,” Freeman said of Ohtani.
Pete Alonso of the New York Mets won the home run competition on Monday night. He said most people look at Ohtani and think: “Oh, no, he can’t do that.” And then, “[he] goes out and does it.”
The starting pitcher for the National League is Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals. Scherzer will pitch to Ohtani at the beginning of the game. He said: “It would be awesome if I can hit.” Scherzer has not gotten a hit in 30 tries this year.
Ohtani said he did not think he would be chosen to pitch in the All-Star Game. But Major League Baseball players selected him to pitch in the game. “It’s a huge honor,” he said. “And I’m going to try my best.”
Baseball made a small rule change to permit Ohtani to stay in the game and hit one or two times after he is done pitching. The American League team leader, known as the manager, is Kevin Cash. He is happy about the change.
“This is what the fans want to see,” he said.
I’m Dan Friedell.
Ronald Blum wrote this story for The Associated Press. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
athlete – n. a person who is trained in or good at sports, games, or exercises that require physical skill and strength
pitch – v. to throw a baseball to a batter : to throw a pitch
inning – n. one of the usually nine parts of a baseball game in which each team bats until three outs are made
impress – v. to cause (someone) to feel admiration or interest
amazed – adj. feeling or showing great surprise
handle – v. to deal with something successfully
awesome – adj. causing feelings of wonder