Shohei Ohtani amazes Major League Baseball with his impeccable Japanese manners
After making jaws drop both on the mound and at the plate, the Los Angeles Angels’ two-way star is winning fans with his performance in the dugout.
To be perfectly honest, at first I didn’t like Shohei Ohtani. Yes, he’s an extremely talented athlete, and one of only a very few professional baseball players who can both pitch and hit at a top-class level, but I’ll always be a little sore about the Fighters, Ohtani’s former Nippon Professional Baseball team, beating the Hiroshima Carp in the 2016 Japan Series.
But in the here and now, Ohtani is in America playing for the Angels, the closest team to my hometown. He’s helping them rack up wins in the early part of the season, so I’ve really got no present-tense beef with him, especially with a recently revealed tidbit that shows Ohtani is a serious class act.
Jeff Fletcher, a sports reporter for the local Orange County Register who covers the Angels, recently shared something he learned from one of his readers: Ohtani is the only guy who doesn’t spit his sunflower seed shells on the floor.
Just when you thought you'd seen all of the stories about the amazing feats of Shohei Ohtani, a reader just pointed… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…
Foreign visitors to Japan often remark on how clean the country is, but for people who grew up here, that level of cleanliness is to be expected, and adhered to. Just like Japanese society has little to no tolerance for people who litter in public places, it’d be unthinkable for an athlete, especially a professional who’s reached the highest level of the game, to sully the stadium or playing ground. As a matter of fact, when a contingent of Major League payers traveled to Japan for an exhibition series in 2014, Japanese fans were appalled at how filthy they left the dugout they used as guests at Tokyo Dome.
Impressed, but not surprised, by Ohtani’s conduct was C. J. Nitkowski, a baseball analyst who played in not only the Major Leagues, but also in Japan (for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks) and in Korea.
Other Twitter users also chimed in to praise Ohtani’s tidiness:
“He’s so respectful and polite. I love it.” “That’s total respect!!!” “Ahhhhh a gentleman.” “Witnessed this yesterday too! Japanese fans really do treat their stadiums as cathedrals of the game. We need to learn from that.”
Saying Japanese fans treat sports stadiums as “cathedrals” is getting a bit dramatic. Often, the attitude is closer to “We all have to share this space, and if I make a mess, someone else has to clean up after me.” It’s absolutely true, though, that not just the players, but the spectators too, try to leave the stadium as clean as it was when they arrived.
And it’s not like this mentality disappears if the stadium in question isn’t in Japan, as the world saw during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when a group of Japanese fans cleaned up after themselves even after watching their team go down in defeat.
Ohtani is less than two months into his time in the Majors, and, like anyone who lives overseas for an extended period of time, he’ll gradually adapt to local customs and societal norms. Here’s hoping, though, that no matter how long he’s away from Japan, he always keeps this part of his homeland’s culture.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where it still feels weird for him to say “Los Angeles Angels” instead of “California” or “Anaheim” Angels.