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OC Register: AP names Angels’ Shohei Ohtani as Male Athlete of Year for 2021


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Shohei Ohtani’s latest award goes beyond the baseball world.

Ohtani was named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Tuesday, an award Ohtani won against the top players in the other pro sports as well as the Olympics.

LeBron James won the award in 2020 after leading the Lakers to an NBA title. James also won the award in 2013, 2016 and 2018.

Ohtani is the first baseball player to win the award since Houston Astros second baseman José Altuve in 2017. The only other baseball players to win in the 21st century were San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds in 2001 and Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner in 2014.

Angels superstar Mike Trout, who is the consensus best player in the sport and a three-time MVP, has never won the AP award.

Although baseball players have rarely been able to break through for this award against the athletes in other sports, Ohtani did so with a historic performance as a two-way player.

Ohtani was the first player since Babe Ruth more than 100 years earlier to have such sustained success as a hitter and a pitcher in the same season. Few others have even attempted to be two-way players since then.

Ohtani hit 46 homers and posted a .957 OPS over 537 at-bats. He also started 23 games as a pitcher, going 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA. He produced a major-league leading 9.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.

“The year he had was a special year,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said last month. “You just don’t see it. To have a front row seat, to watch that day in, day out, I feel lucky. I feel lucky to witness that.”

Ohtani was also the unanimous winner of the American League MVP award. He was chosen as the Major League Player of the Year and American League Outstanding Player, voted by major league players. The Sporting News, which also polled players, also elected Ohtani as its Player of the Year.

He won the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award, the first player to be so honored since 2014.

It was a breakthrough season for Ohtani after he had dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness for the previous two seasons. Even in 2018, when he won the Rookie of the Year award, he was a two-way player for just 10 weeks before suffering an elbow injury that prevented him from pitching.

“I’ve always dealt with a lot of doubters, especially from my days in Japan,” Ohtani said through his interpreter after winning the MVP in November. “I tried to not let that pressure get to me. I just wanted to have fun and see what kind of numbers I could put up, and what kind of performance I could put up.”

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