Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani Matches Matsui with 175th Career Homer

Ohtani shines amidst personal challenges and legal turmoil.

by Nouman Rasool
Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani Matches Matsui with 175th Career Homer
© Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

In a dramatic return to the diamond, Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani not only showcased his resilience but also etched his name alongside Hideki Matsui in the annals of baseball history. Ohtani, amid the whirlwind of a betting scandal that cast a shadow over him for weeks, matched Matsui by slamming his 175th career home run, setting a record for the most homers by a Japanese-born player in Major League Baseball.

The milestone homer unfolded during Friday's face-off against the San Diego Padres, where despite the Dodgers' narrow 8-7 defeat in an 11-inning thriller, Ohtani's performance was a beacon of brilliance. The $700 million star, who had a sluggish start to the season with only eight hits in his first 33 at-bats, has rebounded spectacularly.

Over the recent stretch, Ohtani has gone 16-for-35 at the plate, including 12 extra-base hits and four home runs, elevating his OPS to an impressive 1.098—ranking ninth among major league qualifiers. Dave Roberts, the Dodgers' manager, praised Ohtani’s steadfast composure during this challenging period.

"He's really unflappable," Roberts remarked, underscoring the athlete's focus and mental fortitude.

Fraud Scandal Unfolds

The backdrop to Ohtani's return was the recent charge against his former interpreter and close associate, Ippei Mizuhara, who faces allegations of bank fraud linked to the misuse of over $16 million of Ohtani’s earnings to settle gambling debts.

The controversy peaked with federal authorities unveiling evidence, including phone records and bank statements, to bolster their case against Mizuhara. Despite the turbulence, Ohtani maintained a low profile, choosing to focus solely on his game.

He broke his silence briefly in a statement to the Los Angeles Times, expressing his gratitude towards the Department of Justice for their thorough investigation and reiterated his desire to concentrate on baseball. Post-game interactions were tightly controlled, with Dodgers' PR officials limiting the discourse to game-related topics only.

In a rare moment, Ohtani reflected on his achievement and the figure he has now come to parallel. Speaking through his new interpreter, Will Ireton, Ohtani conveyed his personal joy and the honor of matching Matsui, a legendary figure he once admired.

"It's an honor to be on the same stage as him, and obviously, it's a big deal in the Japanese baseball industry," Ohtani stated, acknowledging the significance of his accomplishment not just for himself but for his homeland's sporting heritage.

Dodgers Shohei Ohtani