At 11 (live on Sky Sport), the Azzurri face the Japan of the Angels phenomenon in Tokyo, capable of dominating on the mound and at serve
After all, being there and looking around a bit will already be a show: 50,000 Japanese screaming for their national sport and in front of an alien, one who uses his arm to throw and the bat to hit in the same amazing way. The Italy of baseball has already achieved a feat to remember and has earned the opportunity to challenge the great Japan tomorrow in Tokyo in the quarterfinals of the World Classic: at 11 am Italian time (live on Sky Sport) it will be pride, but also vertigo for the Azzurri by Mike Piazza, manager but before that legend of Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, and in between also president of Reggiana football.
Facing very strong opponents, one in particular out of category: Shohei Ohtani, superstar of the Los Angeles Angels, the man who came from the future to rewrite the history of the game and, perhaps, make it more attractive. This 28-year-old with the tuft is both a pitcher and a designated hitter and is capable of dominating the MLB statistics in both categories, as has not happened for over a hundred years, since the days of the legendary Babe Ruth, nicknamed “The Child”. Yes, the one who launched the famous “curse” that the Red Sox would not win for almost 90 years. In short, he is a very rare example of a “two-way player”, who excels both at the plate and on the mound.
danger number 1
The Asian national team has always entered the top 4 of this competition: they won two editions of the Classic (2006-2009), and were defeated in the semifinals in 2013 (by Puerto Rico) and in 2017 (by the USA), while Italy he just equaled his best finish in history. For this reason, the enthusiasm around our Azzurri does not wane, a somewhat bizarre band: for some too much, given that it is almost entirely made up of Italian-Americans born and raised in the United States, many of whom have only been to Italy as tourists before this adventure. But, beyond the excess of natives, this national team also knows how to be nice: someone has grown a mustache and goatee for the occasion, a coffee machine is never missing in the dugout and one exults by gesturing in the way foreigners do to imitate us (as if to say “but what do you want?”). The enthusiasm for the round and unexpected 7-1 against the Netherlands is still fresh, which allowed Italy to pass the group behind Cuba and thus fly to Japan. In Tokyo tomorrow, all eyes are on the Kansas City Royals pair, shortstop Nicky Lopez (7 pbc in the first phase) and first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, as well as the Fletcher brothers in offense. Our starting mound will be Ryan Castellani, while it is his counterpart who is frightening: him, the alien Ohtani (4 rl thrown against China, 6-12 batting in the first phase, Mvp of group B). “Facing Ohtani is a great chance, a player you happen to cross once in your life,” Piazza said. David Fletcher, the Japanese’s teammate at the Angels, knows better than anyone what they’re getting into: “Playing in the Tokyo Dome against Shohei will be beautiful. It’s a game with no tomorrow and it doesn’t happen many times in their career except in the playoffs. They have so much talent, for our part we will bring our energy onto the pitch and try to go to Miami (venue of the Final 4, ed.). We spoke briefly with Shohei but there was no bellicose declaration…”.
Not enough, ready to take over from Ohtani, there would also be another pure talent: Yu Darvish, born in 1986, a long-time veteran who, still today, is the leading pitcher of the San Diego Padres. But it is his companion Shohei, revered as a deity in the Rising Sun, who inevitably takes the flashes. Ohtani has already been voted best Mlb player in 2021, he won the American League award in 2022 as well and never mind if with his Angels, together with another star of the first magnitude like the winger Mike Trout, he doesn’t see the playoffs not even with binoculars. He has a humble worker’s smiling face set in that NBA player physique (1 meter and 93 centimeters for almost one hundred kilos) which makes him “different” from the start. On him the New York Times headlined: “Here is the star that the American pastime needed”. And a more glossy magazine like GQ added: “Ohtani could save this sport from the abyss”. After all, as always in baseball, it is the statistics that set the pace of events: the Japanese was the first player in history to be selected for the All Star Game both as a starting pitcher and as the first hitter. And he also “forced” the MLB to change the rules: the “Shohei Ohtani rule” allows a starting pitcher to be used as a designated hitter, thus letting him hit even after his turn on the mound. Before the landing of the Japanese on this planet was not allowed. Our natives of tomorrow are looking for history, yes, but if you think about it, they already have it in front of them.
March 15, 2023 (change March 16, 2023 | 00:10)
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