Shohei Ohtani Clinches AP Male Athlete of the Year Award for the Second Time

shohei ohtani

Twice named the AP Male Athlete of the Year in three years, standing alongside numerous legendary athletes

In the buildup to Shohei Ohtani's entrance into the dazzling lights of Hollywood and the signing of the most lucrative contract in the history of professional sports, the baseball two-way sensation showcased another season of unparalleled brilliance from Tokyo to Anaheim.

The exceptional achievements that earned him The Associated Press' Male Athlete of the Year award for the second time in three years, the Los Angeles Dodgers are eagerly paying $700 million to see for witness Ohtani's future exploits.

"Shohei is arguably the most talented player who's ever played this game," remarked Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers' president of baseball operations, following Ohtani's recent signing of a groundbreaking 10-year contract.

In a stiff competition voting by a panel of sports media professionals, Ohtani outpaced Inter Miami superstar Lionel Messi and tennis legend Novak Djokovic, securing 20 out of 87 votes, while Messi and Djokovic got 16 apiece. Nikola Jokic, the NBA Finals MVP from the Denver Nuggets, received 12 votes.

Having claimed his first AP Male Athlete of the Year title in 2021, Ohtani now joins an illustrious list of two-time winners that includes legendary figures like Don Budge, Byron Nelson, Carl Lewis, Joe Montana, Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, and four-time honorees Tiger Woods and LeBron James, while two-time awardee Sandy Koufax remains an iconic figure in Dodger.

Ohtani has shattered decades of conventional wisdom in his six-year Major League Baseball (MLB) career, surpassing even the accomplishments of Babe Ruth in a significantly more challenging era. Most new frontiers in sports are typically crossed incrementally, but Ohtani has toppled barriers that stood for a century with peerless skills, confidence and hard work.

The Japanese phenom unanimously secured the AL MVP award in 2021 and repeated the feat in 2023. At the same time, he defeated last year's AP Male Athlete of the Year winner, New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, to clinch this year's AP Male Athlete of the Year award.

WBC MVP, creating a legend, with a promising future as he joins the Dodge

The year 2023 commenced with Ohtani's MVP heroics for Japan's championship team in the World Baseball Classic, highlighted by a pivotal strikeout of Angels teammate Mike Trout in the title-clinching game. Despite an early end to his season due to a pitching elbow injury in August, Ohtani's performance on the mound and at the plate for the Los Angeles Angels was nothing short of spectacular.

Ohtani led the American League (AL) with 44 home runs, 78 extra-base hits, 325 total bases, and a 1.066 OPS as the designated hitter for the Halos. Simultaneously, he showcased his prowess on the mound, holding hitters to an AL-best .184 batting average. At the time of his injury, he ranked second in the league with 11.39 strikeouts per nine innings and third with a 3.14 ERA.

Former Angels manager Phil Nevin encapsulated Ohtani's impact, stating, "There's nobody like him, and there's nothing that you would say he can't do. Anything is possible with Sho. I don't know who else you could say that about in baseball history."

Upon leaving Japan in late 2017 to pursue his MLB dreams, Ohtani's exploits have been followed with microscopic detail by fans in his homeland. His inaugural appearance for Japan in the World Baseball Classic last spring was nothing short of extraordinary. Excelling in games held in Tokyo and Miami, Ohtani batted .435 with four doubles and a homer, pitching 9 2/3 innings with 11 strikeouts and a 1.86 ERA.

The climax of the championship game saw Ohtani striking out Trout for the final out, securing Japan's victory over the U.S. This triumph set the stage for another remarkable MLB season with the Angels.

Despite facing a second surgery on his pitching elbow, likely preventing him from pitching in 2024, Ohtani's injury history did not diminish his free-agent value. His ability to remain one of the league's best hitters while awaiting potential recovery from his pitching elbow made him an attractive prospect.

"One of the many things we've come to appreciate over the years about Shohei is watching him never take a pitch off, no matter the score of the game," remarked Friedman. "I've seen him in games where his team is up big or down big, grinding each pitch late in an at-bat — hustling, doing everything he can to leg out an infield hit late in a game."

While Ohtani's impact on modern baseball is undeniable, signing a record-setting contract added another unprecedented feat to his remarkable journey. The Los Angeles Dodgers, recognizing the revenue-generating potential of Ohtani's worldwide fame, eagerly invested $700 million in the 29-year-old's next decade.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expressed his disbelief, stating, "Can't believe we're going to have the opportunity to have him wear a Dodger uniform. One of the most talented players ever to put on a baseball uniform is now a Dodger."

Despite Ohtani's anticipated prowess, the Angels, unfortunately, failed to secure a winning season since 2015. When Ohtani entered free agency this winter, he opted for the nearby Dodgers, a club that has experienced only two losing seasons in the 21st century, with none since 2010.

Winning the competitive race for Ohtani's services, the Dodgers not only offered a groundbreaking contract but also a supportive West Coast environment, a roster of exceptionally talented teammates, and ample resources to further enhance their capabilities. The team also boasts a winning culture, having made 11 consecutive playoff appearances.

"I can't wait to join the Dodgers," Ohtani conveyed through his translator, Ippei Mizuhara. "They share the same passion as me. They have a vision and history all about winning. I share the same values."

In essence, Shohei Ohtani's journey continues to captivate the baseball world. His remarkable achievements, coupled with his groundbreaking contract and move to the Dodgers, underscore not only his athletic prowess but also his global impact on the sport. As he embarks on the next phase of his career, donning the iconic Dodger uniform, the anticipation and excitement surrounding Ohtani are at an all-time high. The baseball community eagerly awaits the unfolding chapters of this extraordinary athlete's legacy, recognizing him as a trailblazer who has redefined the boundaries of what's possible in modern baseball.