BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
In 2018, I had the opportunity to cover the LA Angels in Spring Training in a contest vs the Seattle Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium and it was an incredible experience!
This Arizona Cactus League venue was jammed and the Media Circus that surrounded Shohei Ohtani was indescribable. The Japanese/Asian Coverage surrounding this guy’s first year was the expected circus to cover a player that is a generational performer since he’s able to pitch and contribute offensively.
On Wednesday Night at LoanDepot Park, the South Florida Tribune was only approved for one credential as my photographer was denied because of “Severe Space Restrictions “ but this didn’t bother me one bit because of what I dealt with in Arizona. I even joked around about this on My Tuesday Podcast, 108 Stitches, Baseball Talk with Lou Landers, Eric Katz and Rick Curti.
This is one of those situations that I felt very fortunate to have been able to attend the game and didn’t mind being writer, photographer and videographer in one night.
Call it triple-tasking to the max but at least it was easy to stay entirely focused the entire game.
Sometimes in Baseball, it’s easy to lose concentration and miss a play every so often when you’re keeping score. I have ways of finding those missing plays on MLB Game Day Live Websites.
When you see Shohei Ohtani, he’s an event!
In the Press Box, there was a lot of Asian/Japanese representation, in addition to the regular LA Angels media covering the squad.
The Press Box was full!
Between my local colleagues and the visitors, you can throw social distancing out the window.
It would have been a shame if Ohtani had come to Miami during the Covid-19 Pandemic and there were no fans and media on hand.
The Baseball Gods didn’t let that happen!
There would be the pre-game Media Availability and Marlins Manager Don Mattingly was at his best not only talking about this game, but the main event of the evening.
You guessed it, Shohei Ohtani and I certainly enjoyed talking about this player as well as other subjects as you’re going to see in the video.
As expected, the photo wells were packed in a major league ballpark as they were four years ago in Tempe. The field looked like a zoo with a lot of people and let’s not lose sight of the fact that in addition to Ohtani, Angels Superstar Mike Trout was on display. He was signing autographs before the game for kids. It was a great sight to see!
Going into this two-game series, the Angels led the all-time match-up 9-6.
They played two previous series in Miami at Joe Robbie Stadium and LoanDepot Park, and LA held a 5-4 advantage.
In Tuesday’s opener vs the Angels, the Marlins defeated the Angels 2-1 behind an impressive outing by ace Sandy Alcantara, who tossed eight scoreless innings, yielded two hits and struck out 10 to improve his record to 9-3 in front of 13,338 fans.
Drawing the pitching assignment for Ohtani was All-Star Trevor Rogers, who entered the game with a 4-6 mark.
Ohtani entered this game with a 7-4 mark with a 2.68 ERA.
Before the game on the field, I interviewed Marlins Announcer Tommy Hutton for My Show, “Fire Up Florida” which will be aired at a later date and talked about Ohtani along with other great topics.
When all the pre-game activities were complete, it was time to get back to the Press Box and multi-task. The digital camera was working well and I was keeping score staying in the game at all-times. When Ohtani pitching, you focus on the Marlins offensively as to how well they will or won’t do.
I sat next to a young Japanese female reporter who was writing her story which I couldn’t read on her computer while still taking pictures. Have to brush up on My Japanese.
This was a game that if you didn’t want to keep score, just watching Trout and Ohtani could keep one engaged.
But I’m glad that I kept it anyways and plan to frame it and hang it in my office.
I grew up in an era of baseball where the phrase that a “pitcher helped his own cause” was used when they were hitting especially when they won the contest. Covering the National League the past couple seasons, gave me a taste of that writing about the Marlins.
But this year, the Universal Designated Hitter is a permanent part of the game.
Ohtani is the only way unless you see a position player pitch, then you’re going to see a hurler hit.
Ohtani pitched seven scoreless innings, his fastball was clocked at 101 MPH, had two RBI, scored a run and stole a base. According to CBS Sports, he’s the first player ever to record 10 strike outs, two RBI and a stolen base in a single game since RBI became official in 1920.
With the Angels 5-2 win over the Marlins on Wednesday Night, Ohtani improved his record to 8-4 and has won five straight starts. He has reached double-digit strikeouts in three straight starts to lower his season line to 2.44 ERA, 111 strikeouts, 20 walks in 81 innings.
Let us not forget the most important statistic of the night.
A crowd of 18,741 fans used their digital cameras and had a memorable evening knowing that “Shohei Ohtani Came As Advertised.”
I’ve had a lot of great memories being around this sport for close to 60 years, and I have to admit, this one ranks at the top. Who knows when I’ll see him again.
Spring Training gave me a taste of Ohtani four years ago.
This game gave me nine non-stop innings of this generational player that won’t ever be duplicated to this level that draws comparisons to Babe Ruth.
As much as I hate comparing players from different eras, it’s easy to make an exception this time!
This game wasn’t as much about whether the Marlins or Angels won the game.
The real winners were those that attended the game inside LoanDepot Park watching an incredible player, plus seeing a match-up that you wouldn’t ordinarily see without inter-league play.
These two teams will never see each other in Spring Training since the Marlins are in Florida and Angels in Arizona.
What made this night even more special for me was seeing My good friend, Adam Chodzko, who is the Angels Director of Communications.
We spent time together in 2018 and I hung out with him and former Angels Vice President Tim Mead, who has been one of my best friends and is currently retired.
Indeed, this was a night for myself that I’ll never forget, and as I get set to go on vacation to Cooperstown, NY with my wife in early August to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, I’m thinking, Ohtani and Trout could be enshrined there one day.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.
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