Baseball-Ohtani homers as jilted Blue Jays fans fume

By Thomson Reuters Apr 26, 2024 | 10:00 PM

By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) – Shohei Ohtani finally landed in Toronto on Friday, but wearing Los Angeles Dodgers blue nearly five months after crushing the dreams of Blue Jays fans, who had high hopes their team was about to sign the Japanese two-way superstar.

A capacity crowd at the Rogers Centre wasted no time letting Ohtani know how they felt about being jilted, while the Dodgers’ $700 million man let them know what they missed out on, blasting a solo home run in his first at bat that took much of the bite out the jeers that had greeted him.

Ohtani’s first visit to Toronto as a Dodger ended with a 12-2 Los Angeles victory that put a period on one of the more bizarre episodes in Blue Jays history that began back in wintry December.

“Not surprised,” offered a diplomatic Ohtani through his new interpreter when asked about the Toronto reception. “I really do feel that the fans here are passionate and when they are, that is the kind of reception they will do.

“Aside from how the fans may or may not think, I am just very grateful for the teams that approached me and wanted to sign me.

“As I said before, ultimately I could only choose one team.”

The most coveted talent to hit the free agent market in decades, the pitcher/slugger was on every team’s Christmas wish list. In early December Toronto had positioned itself as one of Ohtani’s preferred destinations, along with Los Angeles.

What followed was a week of giddy anticipation as Canada’s biggest city whipped itself into an Ohtani frenzy.

As decision day loomed, thousands, including media outlets, latched on to social media reports that Ohtani was on his way to Toronto and began tracking what was believed to be his flight online.

Camera crews and reports were scrambled and swarmed the airport for his arrival.

When the private plane believed to carrying Ohtani finally touched down, the cargo was Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den investor Robert Herjavec.

Soon afterwards the bubble burst. Ohtani ended the suspense on Dec. 9, announcing he had decided to stay in the Los Angeles area, moving from the Angels to the Dodgers.

For more than four months, Jays supporters had fumed over talk that Ohtani had never seriously considered Toronto but was using them as leverage to secure the richest deal in Major League Baseball history.

Jays fans arrived at the Rogers Centre looking to vent pent-up frustration, but Ohtani would only add to their grievance by slamming his seventh homer of the season.

Ohtani is not expected to pitch this season after undergoing elbow surgery last year but is earning his money at the plate.

Earlier in the week the twice American League most valuable player hit his 176th career homer to set the record for most home runs for players born in Japan.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by William Mallard)