The twinkle in his eye caught my attention as I’m sure it did the thousands of other onlookers. Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels pitcher and slugger, was on first base looking like a kid who was about to put his hand in the forbidden cookie jar before his elders could catch him. He was sizing up the pitcher, Paul Fry of the Baltimore Orioles, a lefty, to see whether or not he could steal second base. As most baseball fans know, it is harder to steal second base from a southpaw because when he delivers the pitch, his left-hand is aimed directly toward first base. The camera focused in on the intensity, yet playfulness of Ohtani, as he carefully read every movement the pitcher made. Baseball, after all, is a game that I, like many others, loved and played as a kid. Ohtani’s antics, in front of a national audience, rekindled in me, as I’m sure many others, that childhood joy of having fun.
Because of batter interference by Anthony Rendon that nullified his steal, Ohtani had to try to steal second base a second time. But Ohtani was not going to be stopped. After Rendon struck out, Ohtani stole second base on the first pitch thrown to the next batter, Jared Walsh. Now on second base, when Walsh hit a single to right field, Ohtani took off, as if there were no tomorrow, and slid around the tag by the Oriole catcher to score the winning run by the Angels in the bottom of the 9th inning.
Scoring the winning run put a perfect ending to a great performance by Ohtani, who had already hit two home runs to drive in three runs. The divisiveness in the body public of America, for a few precious moments, with each of Shohei’s home runs, appeared to have vanished. Because Ohtani is Japanese, the many fans of Japanese heritage roared with delight after each home run. But they were not alone in cheering for Ohtani as the whole ball park lit up with each homer. The worries and grievances caused by both the pandemia and politics were put on hold as people of all different ethnic groups applauded Ohtani’s feats. It was a pleasure to see. America has invented different sports as a way of challenging and competing with one another without doing harm. Hitting a baseball 400 to 450 feet is a lot less dangerous than firing a missile at another country. And to many of us the thrill of a bat cracking a baseball reminds us of the beauty and innocence we experienced as children. It is the week-end of July 4th so let’s give thanks to the ideals and underlying spirit of unity, embodied by the Declaration of Independence, that we celebrate each year. Similarly, Ohtani’s amazing feats in baseball, America’s pastime, brings us all together.