Shohei Ohtani And Yoshinubo Yamamoto: Dodgers Go For Japanese Tourist Market
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The Los Angeles Dodgers have apparently decided to become the national Major League Baseball team of Japan by signing two-way player Shohei Ohtani and pitcher Yoshinubo Yamamoto to a billion dollars of contracts over the next 10-12 years. Ohtani is only taking $2 million of his $70 million per year for 10 years over the next 10 seasons, deferring $68 million per year to the ten years after his contract is up. This allows the Dodgers to afford to sign expensive free agents like Yamamoto, the best pitcher in Japan for the last three seasons, to lucrative deals.

Ohtani is 6’4″ but Yamamoto is 5’10,” short for an MLB pitcher. While Japanese have gotten taller, they’ve tended to top out below American averages. In 2023, there were 14 MLB pitchers between 5’7″ and 5’10,” but 15 between 6’7″ and 6’8.”

The Dodgers have had success before with ethnic heroes like Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Fernando Valenzuela, and Hideo Nobu.

It would be unfortunate, however, if Yamamoto and Ohtani take a disliking to each other and then have nobody else on the team to talk to in Japanese for the next 10 seasons.

Los Angeles is traditionally a favorite of Japanese tourists. When I went to UCLA MBA school in 1980-82, the UCLA bookstore was always full of Japanese tourists buying UCLA-branded junk and having their picture taken in front of the UCLA sign on Westwood Blvd.

My impression four decades ago was that San Francisco was the dream destination of Chinese tourists and Los Angeles was the ideal goal of Japanese tourists.

So, the L.A. Dodgers signing the top 2 Japanese ballplayers makes marketing sense. Still, I don’t quite get tourists visiting L.A.

Personally, as an Angeleno, I think Los Angeles is hilarious. But I doubt if all that many Asian tourists get the joke.

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