Shohei Ohtani shares his lofty goal heading into next season
Shohei Ohtani already won AL MVP honors in 2021 with arguably the most extraordinary individual season that baseball had seen in over a century. But he appears to be striving for something even bigger going into next season.
The Los Angeles Angels star was featured this week in a cover story for GQ. As part of the story, Ohtani shared the lofty goal that he has — helping to make baseball the most popular sport in the country.
“Baseball was born here,” said Ohtani. “I personally want baseball to be the most popular sport in the United States. So if I can contribute in any way to help that, I’m more than open to it. But if you look at the whole baseball population in the world, it’s a lot less than, like, soccer and basketball, because only select countries are really big on baseball. But in those countries where it’s huge, it’s unbelievably huge.”
Granted, baseball has a fairly long way to go to catch up to both basketball and especially football in America. In a 2018 Gallup poll of American adults, 37 percent of respondents chose American football as their favorite sport to watch. 11 percent picked basketball while baseball came in third with just 9 percent of the vote. Soccer was not too far behind baseball either, earning 7 percent of the vote.
In recent years, baseball has also been confronted with the issues of an aging fanbase, a perceived inability to market their top stars, and disillusionment with the leadership of commissioner Rob Manfred. The ongoing lockout, which is beginning to spark concern, is not helping matters either.
For Ohtani’s part though, he is the most exciting attraction that the sport of baseball has seen in a long time now. He hit 46 home runs and struck out 156 batters last year, giving him truly unparalleled unicorn status.
While restoring baseball to its past glory is far from a one-man job, Ohtani, who creates buzz every time he breathes, is as good of a candidate to begin the crusade as any.
Photo: Aug 21, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels pitcher/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani in the dugout against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports