LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Los Angeles Angels dual-threat Shohei Ohtani hit his major-league leading 32nd home run of the season on Wednesday, breaking Hideki Matsui’s record for long balls in a single season by a Japanese-born player.
Ohtani, who has been electrifying in the batter’s box, on the mound and on the basepaths, crushed a pitch from the Boston Red Sox’s Eduardo Rodriguez over the right field wall to help his team to a 5-4 victory as the club improved to 44-42.
Matsui, who smacked 31 homers as a member of the New York Yankees in 2004 and took home World Series MVP honors in 2009, had nothing but praise for his fellow slugger.
“Thirty-two home runs in a season is just a passing point for a hitter like Shohei,” Matsui said in a statement put out by the Angels, where he spent a season in 2010.
“I was once considered a long ball hitter in the Majors, but I believe that he truly is a long ball hitter.”
Matsui also called Ohtani an “amazing pitcher” who “exceeds what is considered conventional for a MLB player.”
Ohtani is 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 starts this season.
“There is no one else like him,” Matsui said.
“I hope he continues his success this season as he carries the hopes and dreams of many fans and young children. As a baseball fan myself, I can’t wait to see what he is able to do next.”
Next up for the 27-year-old phenom, nicknamed “Shotime,” is his first appearance at next week’s All-Star Game, where he will take part in the home run derby on Monday and hit and pitch in the game on Tuesday at Coors Field in Denver.
Ohtani is the first player to be selected for an All-Star Game as both a hitter and pitcher.
With Ohtani, the only comparison that can be drawn is to Babe Ruth, a fellow two-way player who became an icon of the game with his dazzling play nearly a century ago.
Now it is Ohtani’s time to make history.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)