Photo/Illutration Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels receives congratulations from his teammates in the dugout on Oct. 2. (Ryo Kato)

Hometown boy Shohei Ohtani gave his legion of fans in Iwate Prefecture one more thing to cheer about this season on Nov. 19. 

The news spread quickly in Iwate and across Japan that the Los Angeles Angels two-way superstar had been named the American League’s Most Valuable Player. 

In Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, Ohtani’s hometown, a special venue was set up at a city government office. 

About 150 city officials and others celebrated and waved red inflatable thunder sticks when the long-anticipated announcement was made in the United States. 

Kyoko Moriyama, 75, was among the gathering at the city office. 

“I finished my housework quickly and saw the news on the television,” Moriyama said. “His personality is also great. He is young, but wonderful. He is Japan’s pride.”

Hiroshi Sasaki, Ohtani’s baseball coach at Hanamaki Higashi High School in Iwate Prefecture, talked to reporters in Tokyo after the announcement. 

“He had good academic grades and was a wonderful student as a human being,” Sasaki recalled. “I am too scared to say that I instructed him.”

Sasaki was once told by Ohtani about his huge dreams when he was a high school student. 

“I will become the world’s No. 1 player. I will become a pioneer down this path,” Ohtani told him at the time. 

“He has been taking actions based on his wishes and fulfilling his dreams on his own,” Sasaki said. 

Ohtani was clocked throwing a baseball at 160 kph when he was a third-year high school student. His right arm was extraordinary even at that time. 

“He is the kind of athlete who can improve on his own,” Sasaki said. “If we can discuss ways of thinking with him and put him in a good environment, he will continue to grow even further and further.” 

Sasaki said that an equally impressive thing about coaching Ohtani came off the field.

“He was a wonderful baseball player, but at the same time, he scored an average 85 points in all academic subjects,” Sasaki said. “He cleaned his dormitory room very hard. He did not fail to turn in required things. How he lived was great. It is easy for me to tell children how Ohtani was.” 

When Sasaki was asked by a reporter if he had a message for his former player, he said, “Not congratulations but thank you.”  

(This article was written by Ken Murota and Shunsuke Karasawa.)