SEATTLE (AP) — Shohei Ohtani had an entire stadium asking him in unison to come to Seattle in free agency.
“Never experienced anything like that, but I definitely heard it,” the two-position star said through his interpreter. “But I was trying to focus on my at-bat.”
Ohtani was the biggest star of the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, even if his appearance was rather uneventful. Ohtani struck out and walked in his two at-bats as the American League saw its nine-game win streak come to an end with a 3-2 loss to the National League.
But it was what happened while Ohtani was in the batters’ box that became notable.
With the Seattle crowd aware of Ohtani’s pending free agency this offseason, the stadium broke out into loud chants of “Come to Seattle! Come to Seattle!”
“Every time I come here the fans are passionate, they’re really into the game. So it’s very impressive,” Ohtani said. “I actually spent a couple offseasons in Seattle. So I like the city. It’s beautiful.”
They were impossible to miss and a little different than the loud pop he received during pregame introductions that was only topped by Seattle’s three representatives.
“I did talk to him a little bit but nothing specific about him coming to Seattle, just asked him a couple questions,” Seattle star Julio Rodríguez said. “But that was cool. That was a pretty interesting thing to see how the whole city came (together).”
Ohtani’s free agency this offseason was the buzz of the All-Star Game with some pondering whether a deal in the $600 million range could be possible for the two-way star.
“I think a lot of people are lobbying for Shohei, to tell you the truth. And that was a sign of affection and that they wanted him,” AL manager Dusty Baker said.
His future could become a topic sooner than later if the Angels continue to fade with Mike Trout sidelined by injury. The Angels entered the All-Star break losers of five straight and nine of 10 to drop below .500. The Angels said they have no intention of dealing Ohtani prior to the trade deadline, but that could change over the next few weeks.
“I’m not really going to change anything personally, just keep it the same,” Ohtani said. “I know we have a lot of injuries right now and we’re in a tough spot, but we need to hang in there because we got guys coming back soon. So try to hang in there and get as many wins until all the guys come back.”