New Dodger Ohtani says Seoul MLB games will be ‘great memories’ for him and wife

Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani attends a news conference ahead of a baseball workout at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, March 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani attends a news conference ahead of a baseball workout at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, March 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Los Angeles Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani says the upcoming Major League Baseball season opener against the San Diego Padres in Seoul will provide “great memories” for him and his wife, but he’ll attempt to focus on baseball.

Ohtani spoke to journalists with Dodgers teammates at a packed press conference on Saturday, a day after he arrived here with his wife Mamiko Tanaka.

Ohtani said it was the first time for his wife “to come with me to a game like this.”

“So I think it’s going to be really great memories for both of us. But like I said earlier, I have one job to focus on. It’s baseball,” Otani said via an interpreter.

In late February, Ohtani, 29, said on Instagram that he was married to “a normal Japanese woman” he had known for three to four years. But he hadn’t said who she was until another Instagram post with a photo of him and Tanaka on Thursday.

Tanaka, 27, is a former professional basketball player who played for the Fujitsu Red Wave in the Women’s Japan Basketball League from 2019-23.

The Dodgers-Padres games on March 20-21 will be Ohtani’s debut with the Dodgers, and they will be the first MLB regular season games in Seoul.

In December, Ohtani signed a record $700 million, 10-year contract to join the Dodgers. He underwent surgery on his right elbow last September and will not pitch this season. He will be used as a designated hitter and there is a possibility he could play in the field.

Ohtani says he is aware of the intense international media focus on the games in Seoul.

“I appreciate all the attention. Obviously, attention is always great, being a baseball player and being able to play with these great guys next to me. I’m really excited,” Ohtani said, referring to his two teammates speaking at the news conference, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.

“I’m really used to the attention, but I just try to focus on what’s in front of me, whatever it is.”

South Korean media have churned out stories on Ohtani, mostly in a positive tone, with social media filled with messages supporting and praising the Japanese phenomenon. Members of his fan club in South Korea put up placards welcoming Ohtani’s arrival at Incheon international airport on Friday.

That’s not an usual South Korean treatment of any celebrity from Japan, given the two countries’ strong rivalry in sports and other areas mainly due to Japan’s past colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

“Japan and Korea, they’ve always had a great rivalry when it comes to sports. I’ve always watched the games between Japan and Korea and I always respected, looked up to Team Korea and Korean players,” Ohtani said.

“So being accepted like this and welcomed is a very good feeling. And I want to put on a very good show for everybody” he said.



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