Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Dodgers are two of preeminent sports franchises, and they share a connection among their overlapping fanbases and also know with respective Japanese players in Rui Hachimura and Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani was first to arrive in Southern California — albeit with the Los Angeles Angels — when he made the jump from Nippon Professional Baseball for the 2019 MLB season.
The Washington Wizards traded Hachimura to the Lakers in January 2023, and he re-signed with the team this past summer on a three-year contract worth a reported $51 million.
A handful of months later, Ohtani signed a record-setting $700 million contract with the Dodgers. Ohtani’s deal not only reverberated throughout MLB but sports as a whole.
That included Hachimura, who was thrilled to see his fellow countryman earn such a contract, per Dan Woike of the L.A. Times:
“I’m proud of being Japanese as an athlete, came from there, grew up and came here to the U.S. to be in the NBA, the top league in the world,” he told The Times. “It’s different sports, but I’m in one of the biggest organizations in the world. The Lakers. And also him as well. Baseball. Top league. Dodgers one of the biggest organizations. As a Japanese, I’m really proud of him and happy for him. He actually motivated me.”
Hachimura and Ohtani have met on occasion, including during the 2019-2020 NBA season when the Wizards faced the Lakers at then-Staples Center. They spoke on the court pregame and posed for photos together.
Another instance of being in the same vicinity occurred last season, when Hachimura threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Japanese Heritage Night at Dodger Stadium. That coincided with the Dodgers hosting Ohtani and the Angels.
The Dodgers’ attendance for the Freeway Series finale was 53,057, their largest home crowd of the 2023 season.
Rui Hachimura was nervous for first pitch
Although Hachimura played baseball as a child, he admitted to having some nerves when taking the mound at Dodger Stadium but otherwise reflected fondly on the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
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