Photo/IllutrationShohei Ohtani plays for the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, California, on April 8. (Nobuhiro Shirai)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Shohei Ohtani’s spectacular “two-way” feats with the Los Angeles Angels in his rookie season may be obscuring a key tool in his arsenal: his “two-way” feet.

The technology and know-how of Japanese companies are contributing to the phenomenal success of the 23-year-old pitcher-slugger.

For example, Ohtani’s spikes in red, the team color of the Angels, were manufactured by Asics Corp.

He also wore Asics spikes when he played for the Nippon-Ham Fighters. But he used one pair of spikes on the mound and a different pair at the plate. The pitcher’s spikes need protection around the toes against abrasions from being rubbed against the mound.

To save Ohtani the trouble of changing shoes and preventing discomfort, a team of Asics developers in summer 2016 began studying spikes that can be used both on the mound and in the batter’s box.

They came up with spikes covered on all sides with polyurethane resin, the first of their kind developed for baseball players.

The chemical material is stronger than artificial leather, the conventional material, but it lacked pliability.

The developers overcame that problem by reducing the resin’s thickness except at the toes.

“Our spikes can withstand the pitching motion and bend pliantly in line with the swing movement of a hitter,” said Yuma Komoto, a 29-year-old developer on the Asics team. “They are precisely ‘two-way’ spikes.”

The corrugated surfaces of the shoes are designed to evoke images of a Japanese rock garden.

When Ohtani saw the shoes, he was quoted as saying, “I will never forget the Japanese mentality” while playing in the United States.

Meiji Co., a food company that offers protein supplements under the Savas brand, also provides dietary support to professional athletes.

Ohtani has signed a contract with Kei Omae, a 50-year-old registered dietitian at Meiji.

Ohtani is 193 centimeters tall, weighs more than 90 kilograms, and constantly trains to keep in top form. He needs nearly 200 grams of protein a day, about three times the requirement for an average male, to maintain his muscle mass, officials said.

He had to prepare his own meals before the start of the season.

In February, the month when Ohtani joined spring training camp, Omae went to the United States and worked with a cooking expert to find an ideal diet for the pitcher-hitter.

She prepared 90 sets of small-portion packs containing chicken breast, beef tenderloin and other sources of efficient protein that allow Ohtani to easily calculate nutritional values on his own when he prepares meals for himself.

Omae said she believes there is no need to be concerned about all the ups and downs of Ohtani’s first season in the major leagues.

“We are looking toward two decades to come,” Omae said. “Our mission is to help him build up a body that allows him to remain a globally active player over a long time.”