Shohei Ohtani launches first homer in Dodgers spring debut

Shohei Ohtani launches first homer in Dodgers spring debut

The spring debut of Shohei Ohtani with the Los Angeles Dodgers may not have drawn a full house, but those in attendance were treated to a memorable moment as Ohtani launched a two-run homer into the left-field stands in his final at-bat, eliciting the loudest cheers of the day.

Ohtani’s impressive display came in the bottom of the fifth inning, connecting on a 3-2 pitch from Chicago White Sox right-hander Dominic Leone. Despite finishing 1-for-3 with a strikeout and a double play in his other at-bats, Ohtani’s home run marked a standout highlight.

Reflecting on his performance, Ohtani remarked, “I thought I hit it a little too high initially, but the Arizona weather factored in a little bit. I felt better each time I came up. It’s trending in the right direction.”

Batting second in the Dodgers’ lineup behind Mookie Betts and ahead of Freddie Freeman, Ohtani’s plate appearances showcased his versatility and potential impact within the team. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts commended Ohtani’s approach, noting, “With Shohei — I’m starting to learn really quickly — he’s built differently. He took some really good swings.”

For Ohtani, the game marked his return to action following right elbow surgery last September and his first appearance since signing a lucrative 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers in December. Fans eagerly awaited his arrival, lining up along the third-base line to catch a glimpse of the superstar.

The electric atmosphere reached a crescendo when Ohtani’s home run ignited the crowd of 6,678 attendees, underscoring his enduring popularity and impact on the game. “I definitely felt the energy of the crowd and the fans,” Ohtani acknowledged. “I really appreciate it. I’m really happy I was able to make it back on time and play in front of the fans.”

Although Ohtani will not pitch this season, his offensive prowess promises to captivate Dodgers fans. Reflecting on his new batting lineup, Ohtani expressed optimism: “I definitely think it’s going to help. It’s not just Freddie, it’s Mookie and a bunch of good hitters behind Freddie.”

Despite the significance of his return to the field and his transition to a new team, Ohtani remained composed and focused on his role as the Dodgers’ designated hitter. “Definitely a big first step,” he concluded, emphasizing his commitment to preparing for the upcoming season.