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Shohei Ohtani's free agency could also be life changing for Japanese reporters

Jorge Castillo, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Everyone who gathered at the Gaylord Opryland for Major League Baseball's winter meetings this week asked the same question over and over again: Which team is going to sign Shohei Ohtani?

For one franchise, Ohtani's decision will define the offseason. For other prominent free agents, it will finally move their markets forward. For Taro Abe, it might change his life.

Abe, a reporter with the Japanese newspaper Chunichi Shimbun, isn't just tasked with the around-the-clock work that comes with chronicling Ohtani's free-agency developments. Abe and his family — his wife and 9-year-old daughter — would likely have to move from their home in Irvine if the two-way star chooses not to sign with the Dodgers or Angels.

"I talked to my boss and if Ohtani goes to Toronto or Chicago or another city, I think I'm going to move," said Abe, who moved to the United States to cover Ohtani at the start of the 2022 season. "I'm 80 percent, 90 percent sure."

Abe isn't the only one. Nobuhiro Saito, a reporter with Nikkan Sports News, would move from Torrance if Ohtani signs elsewhere. Akiyuki Shiraishi, a reporter with Kyodo News, said it's "50/50" whether he would have to move out of his Irvine home.

While Ohtani is expected to sign the richest contract in North American sports history with a franchise of his choosing, the reporters, whose jobs require them being away from home most of the year, are ready to uproot their lives without the carrot of life-changing money.

 

It's another oddity surrounding Ohtani's secretive free-agent process. Wherever Ohtani ends up, dozens of reporters will be there to chronicle the next chapter of his baseball career as they have in Anaheim.

"We need Ohtani," Abe, 45, said. "He's not just a baseball player. He's a rock star. Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber. Young, old, they love him. Everybody talks about Ohtani every day."

Shiraishi, 35, spent 10 years covering Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan before moving to the United States. He moved to Irvine in 2022 with his wife and son to focus on covering Ohtani's every move with the Angels the last two seasons.

He said he's started looking at apartments in Ohtani's possible destinations — Toronto, Chicago and San Francisco among them. He suspects his family would move to the new city in March before his 6-year-old son finishes first grade.

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