L.A. Dodgers begin campaign in spotlight following Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto acquisitions

P/DH Shohei Ohtani is “not expected to make his spring-training debut for another week”Getty Images

It is now “Showtime in spikes” as P/DH Shohei Ohtani has “made the Dodgers the epicenter of the baseball universe,” according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Ohtani is “not expected to make his spring-training debut for another week,” and P Yoshinobu Yamamoto “won’t make his first start for another four days,” but the Dodgers’ spring training home opener this afternoon against the Padres is “expected to be a sellout.” The Dodgers’ popularity is “so immense that 82% of the tickets sold for this game are from out-of-state visitors.” Dodgers EVP & CMO Lon Rosen said, “It’s something, isn’t it? We’ve always had stars here. We’ve always had a buzz. Just nothing quite like this.” The Dodgers have had “about 20 meetings with Japanese corporations since Ohtani signed,” and every office they stepped into, there “were reminders of Ohtani.” The club has “created the most hype around a team entering spring training” since the Yankees’ dynasty a quarter-century ago. Rosen: “You just see the amount of media attention he gets. It’s like going to a movie premier with all of the reporters and photographers” (USA TODAY, 2/22).

FANBASE IN THE EAST: ESPN.com’s Alden Gonzalez wrote the Dodgers’ standing as the “predominant MLB team of Japan is already becoming clear.” In the two-month stretch that encompassed Ohtani’s free agent decision and Super Bowl Sunday, the Dodgers were searched on Google “twice as often in Japan as they were in the United States.” Dodgers-branded wine has been “sold at liquor stores in Japan.” Japanese publications have previewed the Dodgers’ upcoming season “as closely as they would any local team.” Also, the “iconic” No. 16 jersey of former Dodgers P Hideo Nomo has been “popping up all over Camelback Ranch,” the Dodgers’ spring training home. Ohtani’s first interview session, on Feb. 9, was “attended by about 70 credentialed media members.” Later that afternoon, “at least that many stood along a rope to watch” Yamamoto warm up with fellow P Walker Buehler. Gonzalez wrote the Dodgers had a “foothold in Japan in the mid-1990s, when Nomo-mania swept Los Angeles.” Since then, Japan’s biggest stars have “signed elsewhere.” But with this winter’s moves, the Dodgers “reclaimed their title as Japan’s team.” Gonzalez noted Ohtani’s Dodgers jersey “set a Fanatics record for sales within the first 48 hours of release,” breaking a mark previously held by F Lionel Messi from when he joined Inter Miami (ESPN.com, 2/22).

First appeared on www.sportsbusinessjournal.com

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