Ohtani: I want to help baseball become the world's most popular sport
The 27-year-old wants to use his global acclaim to help the game of baseball become one of the top sports in the world again - especially in the United States, where the NFL and NBA are dominating fan popularity.
"Baseball was born here, and I personally want baseball to be the most popular sport in the United States," Ohtani told GQ's Daniel Riley. "So if I can contribute in any way to help that, I'm more than open to it."
Ohtani became one of baseball's most talked-about players in 2021 after a historic campaign that saw him do things fans had never seen before.
Ohtani belted 46 home runs and 100 RBIs while adding 26 doubles, eight triples, and 26 steals as a hitter. As a pitcher, the Japanese sensation posted a 9-2 record with a 3.18 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings.
He also appeared in the Home Run Derby and made an unprecedented appearance in the All-Star Game as both the AL's starting pitcher and leadoff hitter.
All of Ohtani's accolades also helped him have one of the top-selling jerseys in MLB and he was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People of 2021 in September.
"At this point, I think he's in his own category," Ohtani's translator Ippei Mizuhara told Riley. "After the season he had, I really feel like there's probably not one single person that can match his popularity right now. I heard a lot of people say that Shohei himself was a bigger attraction than the Olympics in Japan."