In 2015, eight years ago, at the WBSC Premier 12 Invitational, Korea first met Ohtani Shohei (29). The reality of Ohtani, which had only been heard through rumors, was fear itself. In the crucible of ‘shock and fear’, Korea collapsed helplessly to ‘pitcher’ Ohtani. 

Against Ohtani in the opening game of the 2015 Premier12, Korea only scored two hits and struck out 10. Ohtani dominated Korea with 2 hits, 2 walks, 10 strikeouts and no runs in 6 innings. His fastball was close to 160km and his forkball was close to 150km.

Ohtani, who met again in the semifinals, overwhelmed Korea even more, 7 innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts, no runs. It was a pace that could even shut it out, but Korea took a breather due to a mistake in judgment by the Japanese bench. Korea beat the mound in Japan after Ohtani went down. The history of ‘The Battle of Tokyo’ was written that way. If Ohtani was responsible for the end of the game, we could have recorded the history of ‘Tokyo’s humiliation’. As much as Ohtani alone, Korea was at a loss. 안전놀이터

Eight years have passed. Ohtani has now been reborn as an unapproachable existence in the major leagues, dominating the league with double work and winning the MVP award. Such Ohtani is even equipped with humility. Eight years ago, he overpowered Korea, but was not nervous about meeting Korea again.

The Japanese WBC (World Baseball Classic) national team, led by coach Kuriyama, announced its 12 members first. Ohtani attended the list announcement and held a press conference with reporters. Of course, a question came up about his impression of Korea, and Ohtani answered seriously. 

He said, “I got the impression that Korea has many amazing players. Looking at Asia and the world, both pitcher and hitter, there are many great players from any generation,” he said. I think he’s playing really great baseball.”

The strong impression of the WBC tournament itself was also the Korea-Japan match. Ohtani said, “The image of the Korean War was quite strong. It was the most enjoyable time since I was playing baseball as a student. Somehow, the image of that time remains,” he said. “I was thrilled just to see the best players in Japan come together as a team and face the best players in other countries.” 

The humble Ohtani is determined to win the WBC. “I am only aiming for the championship because I have gathered amazing players,” he said, stressing, “I am only thinking about winning, and I want to work hard while looking forward to it because it is my first WBC.”

Korea should now be wary of such Ohtani. Korea was placed in Group B along with Australia, Japan, China and the Czech Republic. National team coach Lee Kang-chul expressed his determination to focus on the match against Australia, the first match on March 9, to advance to the quarterfinals, but he cannot help but pay attention to the match against Korea and Japan on the 10th, the next day. Of course, in addition to Ohtani, there are Japanese aces such as Yu Darvish, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Shota Imana, so it is impossible to be on guard against just one. 

Right now, it has not been decided whether Ohtani will double as a pitcher or focus only on pitching or hitting. Director Kuriyama did not immediately respond, saying, “I have to consult with my club and confirm it.” However, there is no doubt that both pitcher Ohtani and hitter Ohtani are both threatening and terrifying to Korea.

However, Ohtani is humble and determined. If we meet again, he cannot help but worry about how to attack.

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