LOS ANGELES — Shohei Ohtanimania descended on Dodger Stadium on Saturday, with fans getting their first in-person glimpse of the two-way superstar wearing blue.
Ohtani, of course, spent the last six seasons playing for the red-clad Angels in Anaheim, which for Dodgers fans may as well be as far away as his native Japan.
Now, Ohtani is theirs.
And Dodgers fans embraced him with screams. Men, women and children donned his new jersey at DodgerFest, where fans were charged — $10 each — for the first time to get in.
Concession stands were open, music blared, the team store was loaded with shoppers, and fans crowded the field to get close to the stage where manager Dave Roberts and about 30 players talked up the 2024 season.
“The only choice is win the World Series,” Ohtani said through his translator.
Ohtani will hit but not pitch this season as he recovers from a second Tommy John surgery.
“Rehab has been going really well,” he said. “I’m very confident we’re right on schedule. We’re not ahead and we’re not behind.”
Once Ohtani gets to spring training in Arizona this month, he’ll progress to taking cuts against a pitching machine.
“The way we talk about Babe Ruth,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said, “that’s who Shohei is.”
Besides Ohtani, who signed a $700 million, 10-year deal in December, the Dodgers reeled in right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto with a $325 million, 12-year contract. They added free agent Teoscar Hernández from Seattle on a $23.5 million, one-year contract.
“It’s staggering,” Roberts said of the team’s offseason spending. “Stuff like this doesn’t happen, so I’m glad it happened to the Dodgers.”
The ninth-year manager is mulling over his starting lineup.
“I don’t think that we’re going to nail it from the outset and to say that what the first three is on opening day is going to be seamless the entire season,” Roberts said. “I want Mookie (Betts), Freddie and Shohei to be part of the conversation.”
Betts and Freeman drew the loudest cheers outside of those for Ohtani.
“A lot of great additions, a lot of excitement for a reason,” Freeman said. “We have ownership, front office go out there and tell everybody that we’re trying to win and win for a lot of years. That’s what you want to be a part of.”
Most of the team is just now meeting Ohtani for the first time ahead of spring training. Reliever Blake Treinen was immediately impressed.
“He’s always happy. He brings an energy, it’s just cool,” Treinen said. “I actually told him welcome to the team in Japanese, but he said it was actually good.”
Andrew Friedman, the team’s president of baseball operations, told Betts and Freeman about a week after last season ended with a thud that the team would go after Ohtani and Yamamoto.
“Not a lot of teams actually do these type of things and to me, it’s just good to know that they kept their word,” Betts said. “They told me, and I’m sure they told Ohtani and all the other guys when they signed, they were always going to give you a chance to win and they have. It’s just on us as players. We have to go execute.”
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