Shohei Ohtani will start Major League Baseball's All-Star Game, MLB announced Thursday, making him the first Japanese player voted to start since Ichiro Suzuki made his final all-star appearance in 2010.
Voted the American League's starting designated hitter in a fan ballot, the Los Angeles Angels' two-way player and first-time all-star will be the fourth Japanese to bat in the summer classic after Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and Kosuke Fukudome.
He is the first Japanese designated hitter selected to an MLB All-Star team.
"I'll do my best to put on a show that will excite the fans," Ohtani said through the team.
Ohtani, who is also slated to be the first Japanese player to compete in the pre-game home run derby, could potentially bat and pitch in the All-Star Game at Denver's Coors Field on July 13, when the designated hitter rule will be used.
Angels manager Joe Maddon was quoted as saying on MLB.com that he is "all for" Ohtani playing both ways in the All-Star Game, a day after he takes part in the home run hitting competition.
"He'd only pitch one inning and probably only get one at-bat. Let him hit and pitch. People want to see that. It's good for baseball," Maddon said.
Although AL pitchers rarely bat, due to the designated hitter rule, the Angels have frequently kept Ohtani in the batting lineup when he pitches to take advantage of his potent offense while he remains in the game.
The Angels star, who turns 27 on Monday, now has a major league-leading 28 home runs on the season to go with his 3.60 ERA after 12 pitching starts. He is playing his fourth season in the majors.
Ohtani, who played for the Nippon Ham Fighters based in Sapporo on the northernmost Japanese main island of Hokkaido, was a five-time All-Star in Nippon Professional Baseball from 2013 to 2017 before joining the Angels in 2018.
Ohtani's teammate Mike Trout was voted in as one of three AL outfielders, his ninth career selection to the All-Star team, but is not expected to play on July 13 as he recovers from a right calf strain.
Along with Ohtani, Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is tied for second in the majors with 26 home runs, and San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. were among the nine first-time All-Stars selected by the fans to start this year's game.
MLB canceled last year's All-Star Game due to concerns over the coronavirus. This year's game was moved to Denver after MLB pulled the game from Atlanta in response to Georgia's controversial voting law.