ESPN “First Take” host Stephen A. Smith on Monday pushed back against the idea of Los Angeles Angels star two-way player Shohei Ohtani being the face of Major League Baseball.
Smith argued that since Ohtani, a native of Japan, doesn’t speak English and needs an interpreter to communicate, he is “harming” the league. According to the ESPN personality, fans will not want to see someone who doesn’t speak English excel on the mound and hit home runs, much like Babe Ruth.
“We all know … the sport of baseball, led by its players, are always the last to the party — always the last to the party,” Smith outlined. “They are so reluctant to change. They are always last to the party. When I look at Ohtani, he is big time. Babe Ruth, 33 home runs, batting .279, got a 4-1 record with 3.79 ERA as a pitcher. This brother is special, make no mistake about it, but the fact that you have got a foreign player that doesn’t speak English, that needs an interpreter, believe it or not, I think, contributes to harming the game when that is your box office appeal. It needs to be somebody like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout — those guys. And unfortunately, at this moment in time, that’s not the case.”
“I’m not taking anything away from Ohtani,” he later added. “I know what he is doing on the field. I know it is nothing short of spectacular, and I understand that baseball is an international sport itself in terms of participation, but when you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube or to the ballpark to actually watch you, OK, I don’t think it helps that the number one face is a dude that needs an interpreter so you can understand what the hell he’s saying in this country.”
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