Nez Balelo Feels ‘Really, Really Bad’ For Blue Jays & Canada Over False Shohei Ohtani Reports

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Just over 24 hours before Shohei Ohtani announced he was signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, there were multiple reports linking the two-way superstar to the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Chicago Cubs, Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants and Blue Jays were said to be finalists for Ohtani both leading into and after MLB’s Winter Meetings in Nashville.

A general perception of the Blue Jays had them making a strong push late in the sweepstakes. Ohtani visited their Spring Training facility in Dunedin, Florida, and on December 8, was said to be en route to sign with the Blue Jays.

Those reports wound up being false, which left Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, incredulous and empathizing with the Blue Jays and Canada for getting their hopes up because of the misinformation, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today:

“I felt really, really bad for the country of Canada,” Balelo said. “And I felt really, really bad for the Toronto Blue Jays organization. They are really good people. What they had to endure, and the pain, wasn’t right. I felt so bad for all of them that they had to go through that because it was the extreme emotional roller coaster of thinking that they had him and then finding out they didn’t. That was about the most reckless reporting I’ve ever experienced in this game.”

During his introductory press conference at Dodger Stadium, Ohtani explained his free agency decision was not made until the evening of December 8. On top of signing with the Dodgers rather than the Blue Jays, that further lends credence to the preliminary reports being erroneous.

Ohtani informed Balelo of his decision the following morning, and Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman heard from the agent shortly before the announcement was made on Instagram.

“I was actually at my son’s soccer game. Thought there was a chance it could happen on Saturday, and was on a Zoom call with a free agent player and said, ‘Hey, this is a phone call. I’ve got to go.’ The Zoom call was winding down, but I abruptly got off,” Friedman revealed.

“I was walking out to the field and answered, don’t even remember what Nez said other than, Shohei was going to be a Dodger and it was going to be announced soon on Instagram. All throughout, he had talked about how important it was to Shohei to announce it in that way.

“It’s part of what contributed to the emotional rollercoaster on Friday, because people who said, ‘The Dodgers are out,’ we knew that wasn’t true because we knew we would never know that we were out, and that it would happen on Instagram.

“So to get that call was incredible, and then making the phone call to our guys who had put so much time and energy into it, was awesome.”

Nez Balelo explains Shohei Ohtani’s secret free agency

Balelo and Ohtani faced some criticism over their clandestine approach to free agency, but neither were fazed or deterred.

“It was well thought-out and strategic thoughts to all of this, because the thing we didn’t want was to create interference and distractions to what we were trying to accomplish. That was really, really important,” Balelo said.

“I know there were some things written — I tried to stay away from it — about the approach we were taking and being secretive, quiet and all that. We did that for a reason, because we felt it was the right thing to do to get the best results. So again, I just want to say thank you to all of you and we appreciate most of you who were respectful to that.

“It was just something we had to do. It’s also a soft apology as well, because I know you all have jobs to do and I know you were trying to report things, and the people you answer to were asking, ‘Where’s information?’ You weren’t getting it from me, you weren’t getting it from Shohei and you weren’t getting it from Ippei.

“So I know it put all of you in a really difficult spot, but again, I appreciate and respect the fact you allowed us to do what we needed to do, and you allowed me to do my job. A lot of you have dealt with me through the years. This is how I do business.

“It’s always been this way. It’s nothing new. Again, it’s just the way we do it. It’s my culture, it’s the way we do it with my agency and it’s just who I am. So thank you for that.”

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