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Enjoy Shohei Ohtani’s Dodger Highlights While They’re Still Harmless

Shohei Ohtani runs the bases after hitting a home run
David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Shohei Ohtani's fastball will not be available to baseball fans in 2024, as the new Dodger recovers from elbow surgery. But luckily for the sport, that elbow only represents roughly half of his talent. And already, in his spring training debut, watching Ohtani at the plate didn't feel like receiving a fraction of anything at all. This was as satisfying as it gets.

In an exhibition against the White Sox, Ohtani started slow with a strikeout and a GIDP. But he went out with a bang against journeyman reliever Dominic Leone in the fifth. Leone worked the edges carefully, and after five pitches and two swings the count was full. On the sixth, Leone's delivery flew just a bit lower than the others, and with that incredibly quick, compact swing Ohtani sent it high to left field for a home run and a regular-season-sized ovation. Take a look, via USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

Oh, sorry. Did you want a video? Here's that, too:

“I just have a good feeling that there’s more to come,” said Ohtani's new manager, Dave Roberts. I have that feeling too, but the Dodger thing is throwing me just a little bit, at least to a point where I instinctively pulled up the Angels' box score when I started writing this blog. On a team like Anaheim, which turned out to be so irrelevant to the league's big picture in every season Ohtani played, there was a harmlessness to all of his achievements that allowed him to easily be appreciated by fans of any team. The Angels certainly weren't going steal a playoff spot from your squad or send them home in October, and from that nonthreatening position Ohtani garnered affection as the entire baseball world's cool cousin. No matter where you lived, his individual success was exciting because it was famously so detached from the competitive side of the sport.

The Dodgers are different. They're gunning for a title. They want to win 100 games for the fourth straight year. They're willing and able to obliterate anyone who stands in their way. In joining up with this powerhouse, Ohtani is now a major piece of a much more dangerous baseball weapon. You can't just stand in awe; you should be afraid. If his new team performs to expectations, there will be hurt feelings and heartbreak among their opponents, and he will be partially responsible. The Angels only ever hurt their own fans.

But Ohtani producing for the Dodgers in a playoff chase or postseason series is still a long way off from Ohtani showcasing his bat in a totally meaningless February practice. For National League fans in particular, there may soon come a time when you are actively rooting for Ohtani to fail. But spring training isn't that time. For now, you can still cheer for him to do cool shit, before he does it to beat your team.

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