Shohei Ohtani matches Hideki Matsui for most MLB home runs by Japanese-born player


LOS ANGELES — It took one, authoritative swing Friday night for Shohei Ohtani to once again reach history and match an idol.

No Japanese-born player in Major League Baseball history has ever homered more than baseball’s richest man after Ohtani walloped an outside fastball from San Diego Padres starter Michael King and drove it into the pavilions seating in left center field Friday at Dodger Stadium.

Career home run No. 175 leveled Ohtani with Hideki Matsui, the fearsome Japanese slugger for the Yankees, Angels, Athletics and Rays whom Ohtani has long described as an idol.

For the Dodgers superstar, it’s a continuation of a torrid stretch at the plate that has come not just in the midst of a milestone chase that’s been well-covered by Japanese media, but in the midst of a scandal involving his now-former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. Mizuhara surrendered to federal authorities on Friday after being charged for felony bank fraud and is being accused of stealing $16 million from Ohtani to back his extensive gambling debts.

Yet, Ohtani’s appeared unfazed.

“He’s very stoic,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Friday as his new designated hitter has gotten off to a 22-for-64 (.343) start with four home runs. “You just don’t know his emotions. He just comes in every day the same. You never know if things are good or things are bad, stuff on his mind. He’s just a pro. He just wants to play baseball.”

In his first game since, Ohtani took a first-pitch sinker off the plate from King before unleashing his monumental swing, rocketing the ball 107.3 mph off his bat and well into the bleachers for a brush with history.

The 29-year-old is one of three Japanese-born players (along with Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki) to even eclipse 100 home runs as a major leaguer. But to match Matsui — a two-time All-Star who has expressed mutual admiration for Ohtani, now a two-time MVP — brings added significance.

“I’m very flattered,” Matsui said of Ohtani’s adoration in Japanese in ‘Shohei Ohtani: Beyond The Dream’ — a Disney+ production released this past winter. “Considering how far he’s come as a player and how huge his presence is in MLB, to hear Shohei Ohtani looked up to me like that when he was a Little Leaguer, I’m humbled to hear that.”

Matsui signed a baseball for Ohtani for the project, joking, “I’m sure this is utterly worthless.”

“This is awesome,” Ohtani responded in film when given the ball, later adding, “I will treasure this.”

Now he will have another baseball to treasure.

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(Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images)

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