Two-way star Shohei Ohtani, the first Japanese to win an MLB home run title, became the first player in MLB to win two MVP awards by a unanimous vote on Thursday.
The 29-year-old Ohtani, currently a free agent, won his second American League Most Valuable Player Award, collecting all 30 first-place votes despite an injury-hit end to his season that limited him to 135 games for the Los Angeles Angels.
He was a unanimous selection in 2021 and runner-up in 2022 to New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge.
"Obviously, I wanted to win it last year, but the other player had a spectacular season and deservedly won it. So I wanted to come back stronger this year," Ohtani said on MLB Network.
Two Texas Rangers, shortstop Corey Seager and second baseman Marcus Semien, finished second and third in the voting, respectively.
"I know my rivals, Semien and Seager, had great seasons, and congratulations to them for winning the World Series. My goal was to come out on top and all my hard work paid off," Ohtani said.
"My balance between pitching and hitting was very good this season, enabling me to achieve an even higher level. I regret not being able to keep playing until the end."
Ohtani had career highs with a .304 batting average, a .412 on-base percentage, and a .654 slugging average, leading the AL in the last two categories. He also hit 44 home runs.
The AL's player of the month for June and July, Ohtani went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings as a starting pitcher until he suffered an elbow injury on Aug. 23.
Ohtani accomplished all that after leading Japan to the World Baseball Classic championship in March, and was the tournament MVP.
Although he is not expected to pitch until 2024 because of elbow surgery after this year's injury, Ohtani could earn a record free agent contract worth more than Mike Trout's $426.5 million, 12-year deal with the Angels.
"As far as the injury is concerned, my rehab is going great so far. It feels like a smoother process than my first (2018 elbow surgery), so I expect to come back strong next season," Ohtani said. "Still, I can't rush and need to take things slow, and take all the proper steps."
Ohtani is the second Japanese player to win an MLB MVP award. Ichiro Suzuki won in his 2001 debut season with the Seattle Mariners.
The 2016 MVP of Japan's Pacific League, when he garnered all but one first-place vote, Ohtani joined the Angels in 2018 and was named AL Rookie of the Year.
Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. was voted National League MVP, also by a unanimous vote, marking the first time both MVPs were unanimous selections. Acuna hit 41 home runs and stole 73 bases.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman finished second and third, respectively.