Shohei Ohtani is a legendary hitter, pitcher and prankster.

last week, angel Assistant pitching coach Dom Chiti visited the weight room at Fenway Park and discovered one of his favorite things to do: the team’s interactive star and defending AL MVP. Shohei Ohtani lifted a silver rubber ball about a foot in diameter and tried to throw it at the wall with a frown on his face. Suddenly he turned around. “Look out!” Ohtani swung the ball to the coach and called.

Rob nearly knocked over 63-year-old Chiti. He prepared for what he expected with a 20-pound projectile… he realized the ball was full of air. Ohtani (27) melted in laughter.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

“He made me bad,” Chitty says. Still, I’m not too shy. Chiti was one of three victims that week of the prank, which Ohtani said is his favorite. It turned out that Ohtani was doing another job he often did.

“He’s always joking around,” left-handed Patrick Sandoval said. “He’s a very naive type. It’s fun.”

Ohtani rarely speaks to the press. He declined one-on-one interviews through the team for this story. So some of Ohtani’s personality has been slow to penetrate public consciousness. But in recent weeks, cameras have captured him dramatically. collapse On the chest of first base coach Benji Gil; as a joke launch ball on the fence white sox A fan was watching him. After hitting 24 at-bats to start the season pretending Performs CPR on his bat in the dugout. Attentive fans are starting to learn what his teammates already know. Able to throw the ball at 100 mph and hit 400 feet, Ohtani is perhaps the most gifted player in the history of the sport. He’s also pretty funny.

GM Perry Minasian says: “His work ethic and his daily routine are crazy, [down to] It’s brief, but there’s time to relax and joke around, and it’s pretty fun to watch.”

When Minasian took over before the 2021 season, he made two important changes to Ohtani’s routine. First, his usage: In Japan, where Ohtani was born and played until 18, he pitched once a week and played as an outfielder 3-4 times a week, never before or after starting. He never made more than 382 at-bats or made more than 24 starts in a season. The Angels tried to reflect this by tracking everything from how much sleep he slept to how often he returned to first base from pick-off attempts in an effort to protect him. After three great but not outstanding seasons, Ohtani has rebuilt his body. He adjusted his diet based on a series of blood tests. He went to Driveline, a private facility that helped pitchers, including Clayton Kershaw, streamline dynamics and add speed. Ohtani said he was finally feeling well. So last spring, Minasian and Maddon decided that Ohtani would dictate their availability. As a result, it meant almost every day.

Another change was Ohtani’s training program. Neither was perfect, as he was both a pitcher and a hitter. In spring training, he would skip pitchers’ defensive practice to get batting practice on time. He used to play catch with interpreter Ippei Mizuhara instead of the other pitchers. All this caused discomfort and sometimes jealousy among his colleagues. So Los Angeles was able to adjust their schedules and fully engage in both areas.

His teammates were amazed at what they had learned as they got to know him better.

“At first I was very [taken aback]”Says outfielder Brandon Marsh, “I was like, ‘Wow, good, show, you have a funny side.'”

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“Wow, okay, Shaw, you have a funny side.” Marsh said when he first met the naughty Ohtani.

Catherine Lotze/Getty Images

A convincing poker face helps sell his pranks. It also hides his character from outsiders. “He’s a lot more extrovert than I thought.” Yankees last November.

Ohtani’s English has improved over the past five years, but the nuances still depend on Mizuhara. But the language barrier is far less daunting than it seems, and besides, many gags don’t require interpretation. For example, a zero-gravity ball prank or his exaggerated reaction. (I love the surprised face, the wide-eyed and open-mouthed look.) He likes to sneak behind his teammates in the dugout, pat them on their distant shoulders and pretend to be naive when they turn around. he played Clash Royal Play with your teammates and be overjoyed when he wins. (“I am the king!” he will remind them for days.) And his laughter is often directed at himself.

“He just giggles,” Maddon says.

When Ohtani swears, he swears mostly in English for the sake of his teammates. He often used appropriate profanity, but no one specifically wanted the profane language he was using. “Everyone learns bad words first, right?” third baseman Anthony Rendon says.

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Some jokes are made ridiculous only by the joy Ohtani accepts. After throwing the bullpen session, he waits for Sandoval to not pay attention, then throws the ball at him and laughs when he drops it. Ohtani also likes to stare at Sandoval until he notices and then repeat what he says. Ahead of last week’s game, Sandoval looked back at his locker and saw Ohtani staring at him.

“I’m serious?” Sandoval said.

“I’m serious?” Ohtani imitated.

“You are a thug!” Sandoval said. Both giggled.

When teammates talk about opposing pitchers, Ohtani sometimes gives the wrong scouting report. “Good two-seam,” he said of a player who only threw four seams and let his teammates pause and come to his senses before he realized they were joking.

Angels relief pitcher Mike Mayers said of Ohtani,

Angels relief pitcher Mike Mayers said of Ohtani, “He seems to enjoy being one of the boys in the clubhouse.”

Tim Heitman/Getty Images

All of Ohtani’s US teammates noticed how bright he was in the spotlight. About 24 Japanese reporters cover him full-time, and he only speaks to the press after he pitches, so he often has to ask his colleagues for content. In that first spring training, they sometimes answered questions about what Ohtani had for breakfast that morning.

“He deserves all the recognition he gets, but he’s getting a lot of attention,” relief pitcher Mike Mayers said. “I think he’s just enjoying being one of the boys in the clubhouse.”

It is famous in Japan because many angels continue to appear in Ohtani’s photos. He recently informed Wade that second baseman has a lot of fans abroad and now only calls him “ikemen” which means “Hot Guy”. Ohtani distributes chocolates from the fan mail he receives every day. “I like it very much,” said relief pitcher Archie Bradley next to him from Anaheim. “He gives me a lot of candy.”

People around him say that Ohtani does his best to be a good colleague. For example, veteran hitters typically pick a convenient time to use the batting cage, while rookies get away with it. You might expect it to be doubly true for veteran hitters who need to find time to throw a bullpen session.

“I am Shohei Otani, but when people enter the cage, they are very kind. He let them go first,” said assistant hitting coach John Mallee. “He does a lot of things that veterans I’ve seen don’t actually do. He gets his teammates to take care of himself before he does, which is really unique for a superstar.”

Ohtani understands how good he is, and after sharing the field with arguably the greatest player of all time and yet-to-be-postseason Mike Trout for four years, he understands how desperately he needs to be good to his teammates as well.

“I really like the team,” he said. told reporters In September, through Mizuhara, he said, “I love the fans. I like the team atmosphere. But I want to win more than that. That’s the biggest thing for me. Well then, I’ll leave it for that.”

Ohtani receives too many chocolates in her fan mail, so she gives her neighbor's locker Bradley a lot of chocolate.

Ohtani receives too many chocolates in her fan mail, so she gives her neighbor’s locker Bradley a lot of chocolate.

John McCoy/Getty Images

Minasian later spoke with Ohtani and said he wanted to win too. And the Angels have made great strides this year. 21-12 they lead the sport in scoring with 164 points sitting in a half game to the Astros in the AL West.

Ohtani is working hard to increase that figure. A few weeks ago, he doubled with a line drive. He returned to score and threw himself on the bench dramatically.

“Ahh!” He moaned.

“What?” His teammates asked anxiously.

Ohtani sighed and waited for the beat, saying “Helm of Homer” with perfect comedy timing.

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