Sean Akiyama and his family crowded around the television in Toronto last Sunday to catch a performance they had long been waiting for.
Shohei Ohtani was making more than his season debut as a pitcher against the Chicago White Sox. As he began his fourth season with the Los Angeles Angels, the 26-year-old Japanese star finally got to hit and pitch in the same game, living up to the word he has been synonymous with back home: Nitoryu, or two-sword samurai.
Akiyama, his mother, father, brother and grandmother watched Ohtani pitch 4 2/3 innings — allowing one earned run on two hits, with seven strikeouts and five walks — and launch a solo home run in three at-bats.
He was a fan before the two-way sensation signed with the Angels in December of 2017, and still has old calendars on his wall featuring Ohtani from his time with Japan’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Akiyama’s mom bought Ohtani shirts for each family member when he signed with L.A.
“It’s straight up awesome. You don’t really have two-way players ever. It’s really exciting,” Akiyama says. “As a Japanese Canadian, it’s freaking amazing that you have someone like Shohei Ohtani doing things like that.”
A total of 63 Japanese-born players have appeared in at least one major-league game, eight of them active this season. Japan has a rich baseball history — rivalling sumo wrestling as the country’s most popular sport. And that love of…