Photo/IllutrationShohei Ohtani tries on a Los Angeles Angels jersey sporting the number 17. (The Asahi Shimbun)

The legendary home run king Babe Ruth (1895-1948), who started his Major League Baseball career as a pitcher, became a two-way player due to World War I.

Many of his star teammates left for military service so Ruth played the outfield on days he did not take the mound.

He soon proved himself a stellar slugger and consistent home run hitter. But he found it too enervating to alternate between pitching and hitting and told his manager one day that he could no longer play the outfield, according to his autobiography.

Ultimately, Ruth chose to give up pitching. This illustrates how difficult it is to be a two-way ballplayer.

But 23-year-old Shohei Ohtani, who played for the Pacific League's Nippon-Ham Fighters, is determined to pursue his pitcher-hitter career. And his hope to be picked up by an MLB team that would accommodate his wish, rather than offer him top dollar, has been met by the Los Angeles Angels.

Now, his dream is to win his first game as a pitcher and hit his first home run on the same day, he told a news conference after signing with the Angels.

For many people, "growing up" means choosing between the two--giving up a dream to work a certain job or sacrificing a hobby due to a busy schedule. They try to convince themselves that such decisions are for the best for the time being.

That makes me all the more admire and envy Ohtani because he believes in having his cake and eating it too.

He once said he had no intention of changing the thinking of people who reject two-way play.

"If it's fun for me, that's good enough," he explained.

But by his actions, I believe Ohtani is starting to change convention and what has been held to be "common sense."

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 12

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.