Shohei Ohtani shines in Dodgers debut. GETTY IMAGES

Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani hit a two-run home run on his first day with the Los Angeles Dodgers last Tuesday. It helped his team beat the Chicago White Sox 9-6. The slugger has signed with the Dodgers.

Shonei Ohtani broke records this season after signing one of the most lucrative contracts in sports history. The Japanese pitcher signed a ten-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers worth $700 million (£650 million). The deal dwarfs all other recent contracts signed by athletes, including Jon Tahm's deal with LIV Golf in Saudi Arabia. 

All eyes were on him, and Ohtani didn't disappoint. He homered in the fifth inning on the first day of the preseason and went 1-for-3 with a run before being pulled in the top of the sixth inning of the exhibition game in Glendale, Arizona. "Speaking through an interpreter, Ohtani told AFP: "Definitely a big first step. "The most important thing was that I was able to finish without having to worry."

Ohtani won his second American League Most Valuable Player award in six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels last year. He left the team as a free agent after failing to record a winning season, let alone reach the MLB play-offs. 

Always a versatile player, he won't pitch this year after undergoing surgery on his right elbow in September. His intention is to make a gradual recovery. These games will allow him to get into a rhythm for the season opener against San Diego in Seoul on 20-21 March. 

"I wasn't nervous because it was just a spring training game. I was more focused on getting ready for the season. Doing what I have to do," said the Japanese. He batted second in the Dodgers' lineup behind two other MVP winners, leadoff batter Mookie Betts and first baseman Freddie Freeman. "Having not only Freddie behind me, but Mookie in front of me and a bunch of great hitters behind Freddie, I think it's definitely going to help me. I'm looking forward to finding out how it feels". 

Shohei Ohtani greets his teammate Freddie Freeman. GETTY IMAGES
Shohei Ohtani greets his teammate Freddie Freeman. GETTY IMAGES

Everyone was watching Ohtani and he didn't feel the pressure, taking the first pitch high in the strike zone and then swinging at the next, missing it so badly his helmet came off. Ohtani batted again in the third inning and hit into a double play. Jose Ramos scored from third base to tie the game at 1-1.

 "I definitely felt good at the plate," Ohtani said. "I felt better every time I got up. Everything's going in the right direction."
Just before Ohtani became the star of the game, Paul DeJong hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning. It gave the White Sox a 4-1 lead. Ohtani's two-run home run in the fifth inning brought the Dodgers to within 4-3. Ohtani was applauded at the time.

Everyone was watching Ohtani and he didn't feel any pressure. "There was definitely a feeling of energy in the crowd. Very appreciative. I thought I hit it a bit high. Maybe (the heat and dryness of Arizona) had something to do with it," commented the Asian.

Chicago extended its lead to 5-3, but the Dodgers tied it up in the seventh inning with run-scoring hits from Chris Okey and Ryan Ward. Okey drove in the winning runs with a three-run homer in the eighth. For Ohtani, who arrived from Japan in 2018 and debuted with the Angels, his first game with the Dodgers was special. 

"It's very different. Six years ago I had no idea what I was doing," he said. "Now I have more experience." Ohtani was instrumental in helping Japan win the 2023 World Baseball Classic. His signing with the Dodgers was an opportunity for him, as the Japanese were desperate for a title, so he suggested to his new team's management that they invest in other players to build a popular team. 

And so it was. In addition to his multimillion-dollar contract, Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto was signed shortly after Ohtani's signing in a 12-year contract worth $325 million. Yamamoto has been voted the league's best pitcher for the past three seasons.