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Baseball: Support staff key to Ohtani's two-way success in 2021

Baseball: Support staff key to Ohtani's two-way success in 2021

Shohei Ohtani is receiving deserved plaudits for his hot start to the 2021 season, and the people behind him are putting their all into ensuring baseball's two-way phenomenon keeps living up to the hype. Ohtani has had to clear the hurdles that come with being an international prospect attempting to chart a path to Major League Baseball stardom, and his personal interpreter and physical trainer have proven key in helping him find his way. Ippei Mizuhara, who worked as an interpreter for Japan's Nippon Ham Fighters, where Ohtani played for five seasons, not only offers Ohtani help in communicating in English but is also an ever-present figure in the dugout and at training while providing the Los Angeles Angels player a foe to battle in online games. Shohei Ohtani (L) and his personal interpreter Ippei Mizuhara are pictured at spring training in Tempe, Arizona in Feb. 2018. (Kyodo) Mizuhara gave Ohtani rides to and from the ballpark until Ohtani got his California driver's license after his second season in the United States, and even made grocery runs for him when players were advised to stay home last year because of the coronavirus outbreak. Angels manager Joe Maddon said the two go together like "peanut butter and jelly," a perfect sidekick for Ohtani as he navigates baseball's biggest challenges. Related coverage: Baseball: Shohei Ohtani hits double-digit homers for season with 2-run blast Baseball: Shohei Ohtani's solid pitching spoiled by Angels' bullpen Baseball: Shohei Ohtani to return to mound on May 5 In his fourth season in the majors, Ohtani is pitching at the level he did in 2018, when he went 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts before an elbow injury ended his season on the mound. As a rookie, he became the first major league player since Babe Ruth in 1919 to pitch 50 innings and hit 15 home runs in the same season. And for the first time since 2016, his team is willing to give up the designated hitter so Ohtani can bat on the same day he pitches. Shohei Ohtani (R) and his personal interpreter Ippei Mizuhara are pictured in this file photo taken in Tempe, Arizona in Feb. 2019. (Kyodo) Before missing three and a half months because of the sport's coronavirus shutdown in 2020, Ohtani had spent more than 17 months rehabbing as a pitcher after Tommy John surgery. This year, Maddon said the 26-year-old is "full go" on both the mound and the plate. Prior to this year, Ohtani had been benched on the days before and after he pitched, but under new general manager Perry Minasian, Maddon has let his star bat and pitch to his heart's content. Ohtani earned his first win since May 2018 last month and credited his success to those who helped him along his journey to recovery. Yoichi Terada, who has been with the Angels after joining in 2011 as former Angels pitcher Hisanori Takahashi's interpreter and massage therapist, has trained with Ohtani and helped maintain his body so it can deal with the unique two-way physical challenges he faces. Like most players, Ohtani is extremely picky about his bats, choosing those he thinks will give him the most repeatable swings rather than extra distance. He is also very particular about his cleats and gloves, wanting them to feel just right. Ohtani also engaged Japanese food company Meiji to analyze a blood sample during the most recent off-season, asking its staff to help him better understand the connection between nutrition and performance. If Ohtani is mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Ruth and other all-time greats for the rest of his career, it will be a testament to both his own commitment to improvement and the work of those who help keep him going.  

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Coronavirus

Japan's daily COVID-19 cases top 7,000 for 1st time since January

Japan's daily COVID-19 cases top 7,000 for 1st time since January

Japan's daily COVID-19 cases topped 7,000 for the first time since mid-January on Saturday, a day after the government's decision to expand the ongoing state of emergency beyond Tokyo and the greater Osaka region, amid growing fears over spreading variants of the coronavirus. While some people expressed weariness about having to put up with longer restrictions, 15 of the country's 47 prefectures saw record numbers of more coronavirus infections including Aichi and Fukuoka that will be placed under the emergency from Wednesday. Tokyo's Haneda airport is quiet with few travelers on May 8, 2021. (Kyodo) Tokyo, which is set to host the Olympics in less than three months, meanwhile, reported 1,121 new cases, the highest daily level since Jan. 22 when the second state of emergency was still in place. Across Japan, the daily total reached 7,246, most since Jan. 9 as the fourth wave of infections rages on in wider areas, which are not yet under the state of emergency or its quasi version entailing some lighter restrictions. Few travelers were seen in Tokyo following the government's decision on Friday to extend the third emergency, which was initially slated to end Tuesday, to May 31. Related coverage: Japan's extended virus emergency to lead to 1 tril. yen economic loss Japan logs record daily coronavirus deaths at 148 A woman in her 50s who works at a coronavirus testing center said, "People are moving around so I don't think the number of infections will decrease despite the extension of emergency." Of the 15 prefectures, Aichi and Fukuoka confirmed 575 and 519 cases, respectively. Hokkaido reported 403 cases. "Everyone is wearing face masks and yet more contagious coronavirus variants are on the rise. The state of emergency cannot be helped," said a 76-year-old man in the southwestern city of Fukuoka. People wearing face masks walk in front of JR Nagoya Station in Aichi Prefecture on May 8, 2021. (Kyodo) The man added, "It's not right to hold the Olympics in this situation." At JR Nagoya Station in Aichi Prefecture, a 47-year-old man who was heading to Osaka Prefecture, where 1,021 more cases were reported Saturday, for work said people around him and he himself no longer feel the "sense of crisis" they used to when it comes to dealing with COVID-19. "I don't have much hope that the (latest) emergency will be effective," he said. Under the emergency, tougher measures have been taken since late April in an attempt to curb surging infections, such as asking dining establishments to stop serving alcohol, big shopping facilities to close and big events to be held without spectators. With the latest decision, the government said some restrictions could be eased, including allowing department stores to open until 8 p.m. and organizers to stage concerts with a limited number of people. But each prefectural governor has been given the authority to decide on the kind of steps to be taken to fight the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said they will continue to ask large commercial facilities with more than 1,000 square meters of floor space to remain closed, saying the situation had not improved enough to let down their guard. In Tokyo, amusement parks including Yomiuriland, however, decided to resume operations with a cap of 5,000 visitors from Thursday as requested by the metropolitan government.    

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