Everyone in Japan knew who Shohei Ohtani was before the 2023 World Baseball Classic.
However, after the event and Japan’s victory over the United States in the final game, his popularity in the country is even larger; and he has ascended from revered sports figure to god-like status.
It’s similar to what happened to Lionel Messi upon winning the World Cup with Argentina late last year: he was already a star there, but is now a legend.
The Los Angeles Angels star got the last three outs in Tuesday’s 3-2 victory against the Americans, helping Japan secure its record third World Baseball Classic title.
He was also crowned the MVP of the tournament, with a 1.86 ERA on the mound and a 1.345 OPS at the plate.
An NBA star summed up how Ohtani is viewed in his home country right now.
“Yuta Watanabe rocking Shohei Ohtani’s jersey after tonight’s game. ‘He’s like God in Japan right now,’” NBACentral tweeted, quoting the Brooklyn Nets power forward.
Yuta Watanabe rocking Shohei Ohtani’s jersey after tonight’s game
“He’s like God in Japan right now.” 🔥
(Via @NickFriedell ) pic.twitter.com/LFvflcejMA
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) March 22, 2023
Watanabe, who is averaging 5.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, was pictured rocking an Ohtani jersey.
Even NBA players know how important Ohtani is for the Japanese.
He is now the global face of the sport, a player so cool that managed to double his Instagram followers in the tournament, from two million to four million.
Every kid in Japan wants to grow up to be like Ohtani: a cool athlete who does things that weren’t done before and makes history every time he steps on the mound or in the batter’s box.
He is Mr. Baseball right now, and we all love it.NEXT: Mike Trout Shares Heartfelt Message After Team USA Defeat