Let us go back to September 14. The Los Angeles Angels were facing off against the Cleveland Guardians, a 5-3 defeat for the Halos. It was just another game in another forgetful season as the Angels were playing out the string, their sights set on another long winter vacation.
But Shohei Ohtani had some work to do that day. He had been recruiting Guardians’ outfielder Steven Kwan to play for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic, looking to add another solid piece to what would be a formidable lineup. That recruitment pitch worked as Kwan contacted the national team, saying it would be a great honor to be a part of the roster.
Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani shows success as recruiter
The recruitment pitch worked for more than Kwan offering his services. According to reports, both Kwan and Cardinals’ outfielder Lars Nootbaar are slated to be part of Team Japan in the WBC. Both players will make history as well as they are the first two to ever play for the team without having been born in Japan.
Kwan certainly did his part to impress Ohtani last year. He produced a .298/.373/.400 batting line in his 638 plate appearances, hitting six homers and 25 doubles while stealing 19 bases. He also showed an amazing ability to make contact, drawing 62 walks while striking out just 60 times. With his ability to play all three spots in the outfield, Kwan should get a chance to make an impact.
Nootbaar had a solid showing in 2022 as well. He produced a .228/.340/.448 batting line with 14 homers and 16 doubles in his 347 plate appearances. Nootbaar can also play all three outfield positions, adding more versatility to Team Japan’s bench.
Team Japan is adding some intriguing pieces as they get ready for the WBC. Ohtani himself confirmed his place on Thursday. Now Kwan and Nootbaar are getting ready to suit up, adding another pair of players who have familiarity against the major leaguers they will be facing.
Shohei Ohtani has done his part to help Team Japan. The Los Angeles Angels star is proving to be an excellent recruiter as well.