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Angels sign ‘Japanese Babe Ruth’

TOKYO (AFP) – Shohei Ohtani is a 100-mile-an-hour fastball pitcher and home-run slugger who once dreamed of skipping the Japanese leagues to head straight for the big time stateside.

Hailed in the US media as “Japan’s Babe Ruth”, the 23-year-old is the hottest Japanese export since Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki took the Major Leagues by storm in the early 2000s.

Shohei Ohtani  (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Shohei Ohtani (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)


“There has never been a player who has performed two ways and reached his great height,” Masa Yamamoto, retired Japanese baseball pitcher, wrote for the Nikkei newspaper.

“He is the best talent in Japanese baseball. Without exaggerating, he is a talent seen only once in a century,” he wrote.

On Friday, Ohtani agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Angels capping a frenzy of courtship and speculation that had surrounded the player’s move to the US major leagues – and fulfilling his childhood dream of playing stateside.

The Angels, who must pay the $20 million posting fee to Ohtani’s Japanese club the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, have until December 22 to complete the deal.

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