Ohtani's moonshot at Oracle Park invokes memories of Bonds


Ohtani’s moonshot at Oracle Park invokes memories of Bonds originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – Coming into his first series at Oracle Park with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Shohei Ohtani was hitless over three games in the Giants’ home field, going 0-for-8 with the Angels. That streak ended Monday on the first pitch he saw.

And in his seventh at-bat of the series, Ohtani gave a gut-wrenching example to all of the Giants that he would have been just fine as a hitter in San Francisco.

Barry Bonds territory, meet Shohei Ohtani territory.

Ohtani on the first pitch of his second at-bat Tuesday night in the Dodgers’ 10-2 win launched a terribly placed Keaton Winn slider nearly into McCovey Cove in the deepest part of the park. The two-time AL MVP cleared right-center field’s high brick wall and the bleachers alike.

“You don’t see many guys hitting the ball to that part of the ballpark that far, and fortunately I played with one here,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It was pretty impressive.”

Roberts was Giants teammates with Bonds in the home run king’s final season of his storied career, one where he hit 28 homers at 42 years old, including 16 at what was then AT&T Park.

“Yeah, that was Barry territory,” Roberts said of Ohtani’s blast. “There’s not too many guys who can do that.”

Placing a ball on a tee for Ohtani didn’t give the Giants any help either. Seriously, Winn’s slider to Ohtani was built for batting practice, setting himself up to be on global highlight reels everywhere.

Ohtani’s 12th home run of the 2024 MLB season traveled 446 feet and had an exit velocity of 113.4 mph. By comparison, the Giants’ 3-4-5 hitters Tuesday night – Matt Chapman, LaMonte Wade Jr. and Wilmer Flores – have hit a combined eight homers in 2024.

Jorge Soler’s solo shot off Dodgers reliever Daniel Hudson earlier this year had the highest exit velocity on a hit by a Giant this season at 112 mph. Ohtani’s blast was the longest hit ball at Oracle Park by 13 feet so far this season.

It had been nearly two years, Aug. 15, 2022, since a home run was hit as far as Ohtani’s at the pitcher’s paradise of Oracle Park. The solo shot was the hardest-hit ball at the park this year, and the seventh-hardest-hit ball at the park since the Statcast era began in 2015.

The “oohs” and “ahhs” of admiration from a large contingent of Dodgers fans in the stands couldn’t be ignored. Dodger Blue has blended in, and perhaps taken over, the Giants’ Orange and Black through two games – both losses. It’s hard to imagine the scene changing in San Francisco’s favor Wednesday night as this series comes to an end.

“I think it’s the Ohtani effect,” Roberts said during his pregame availability when asked about Dodgers fans traveling in droves. “He’s a guy that certainly has moved the needle, and people are coming from all over the world to watch him play.

“We travel well, but this year is on another level.”

If all 30 MLB teams could have afforded Ohtani in the offseason, they would have handed him a blank check before he could utter the word “no.” The historic pursuit teams placed on the once-in-a-lifetime talent had fans searching for clues on social media and tracking flight patterns.

The Giants were considered one of a handful of teams who had a real chance of adding Ohtani, exactly 30 years after signing Bonds to a then-record $43.75 million contract. One can imagine pictures of Bonds rounding the bases in San Francisco being part of the Giants’ recruiting pitch. A video of Bonds’ 35 Splash Hits had to have been in front office’s plans to woo Ohtani to the Bay.

And even Ohtani’s main memories of San Francisco as he became a world-wide phenom in Japan are this ballpark and Bonds admiring his 160 career homers here over the final eight years of his MLB career.

“The image of the ballpark I have is it’s very beautiful, historic,” Ohtani said through translator Will Ireton. “I really like the view of this stadium, and I’ve seen Barry Bonds hit a lot of home runs, so I’m very familiar with the Dodgers and Giants rivalry.”

Ohtani finished a triple shy of the cycle, going 3-for-5 with a home run, double, single and two RBI. He had the two hardest hit balls of the night, and now is 5-for-10 through the first two games of this three-game series. There is one thing Ohtani wishes he could change, though.

For how hard and far his homer was hit, it bounced off concrete instead of floating atop the water and causing kayak chaos.

“I thought I had one today,” Ohtani said. “I was disappointed it didn’t go over.”

Bonds was in attendance for the Shohei Show, and everybody left muttering the same one word that has haunted left field for the last 17 years while still adoring the latest display of Ohtani’s greatness: Barry.

Nobody has deserved the same comparison purely from a baseball standpoint since the game pushed Bonds into retirement after the 2007 season. There’s no what-if with Ohtani, just a reality of what is baseball’s best player since Bonds, all as he rehabs his right arm that makes him equally as dominant on the other side of the ball, too.

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