By Senji Torrey
Public Relations Manager
Every single professional baseball game I have attended has been with my family on my mom’s Japanese side, and every single time I basically only enjoy the food. However, when I went to the Oakland A’s vs. Los Angeles Angels game last weekend, something happened on the field that brought me to the verge of tears.
For context, I was attending this game with my mom’s Japanese friends, who adore one Angels player: Shohei Ohtani. For the hours leading up to the game, all we talked about was the chance of seeing his 100th home run, a huge milestone for the Japanese phenom, and apparently for my mom’s friends as well. “Ah, mada watenai nei, dakara hayaku iko.” (He still hasn’t done it, so let’s get going). No, we weren’t late for the game, it was a double-header, and we were going to the night game.
When our game started, Ohtani did not come flying out the gate as we had hoped. One dingy hit and another pop-up in his first two at-bats seemed to set the tone for a long night for good ol’ Sho’. On his first outing, I vividly remember my mom’s friend yelling “Daijobu Shohei!” (It’s alright Shohei!), like a mother soothing her Little League child. We laughed, but also knew that she was being sincere, and was probably the person most on edge in the entire stadium.
On his third try, Shohei finally hit the sweet spot. This ball soared like I hadn’t ever seen before. From the sound the bat made with the ball, I could tell it was going to be a nice hit, and once it tucked itself over the green fence, I was elated. I don’t like baseball — it’s too slow — so why was I up on my feet, clapping and screaming random Japanese phrases as if it was a war cry that would lead him to home plate?
In retrospect, I think the biggest reason why I was so happy was because the stars truly aligned in so many incredible ways. I have attended four MLB games, and at this one, I got to see history happen. My mom’s friend, who has gone to countless Angels games, had never seen Ohtani hit a homerun until this game. It’s Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The list goes on.
As he reached home plate, I couldn’t help but choke up. Every single time I remember this moment — Mike Trout high fiving Ohtani at home plate, him getting a cowboy hat smacked onto his head as he entered the dugout, the sea of applause from all around the stadium — I cannot help but feel a sense of euphoria. What I chalk it up to isn’t an inspiring message about Asian American solidarity or strength, but rather Ohtani’s quiet grace — a custom of Japanese culture — in the face of such an incredible feat. I can’t exactly tell you why this composure had me on the verge of tears, but I can tell you that the feeling I get when I reminisce on this moment is one of warm, yet overwhelming, bliss.
Despite my shallow takeaway from the moment, I know that this hit signifies something greater than what I can personally derive to the greater population, as evidenced by the hundreds of Asian fans — most of whom donned a #17 on the back of their Angels’ jersey — at the game. Further, in no other stadium in recent memory have I seen more young AAPI supporting one player. Thus, while Shohei Ohtani’s 100th home run milestone will likely not invoke a revolution of Asian MLB prodigies, I believe it is a reminder to the new generation that success is not dictated by demographics, but rather dedication and humility in the face of both hardship and triumph.