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        Shohei's the life and Seoul in dazzling Dodgers opener

        Superstar's debut for new team sparks mania in South Korean capital

        Updated: 2024-03-22 09:15
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        Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani enters the field ahead of Wednesday's Major League Baseball season-opener against the San Diego Padres in Seoul. Ohtani went 2 for 5 with an RBI in his first game for the Dodgers, who won 5-2. [Photo/Reuters]

        SEOUL — Shohei Ohtani said he felt "relaxed" after starting his Los Angeles Dodgers career with a 5-2 win over the San Diego Padres in their Major League Baseball season-opening clash in Seoul on Wednesday.

        Japan's Ohtani, who has been likened to a modern-day version of Babe Ruth, joined the Dodgers in December in a 10-year deal worth $700 million.

        His every move this week in baseball-loving South Korea has been headline news and Gocheok Sky Dome was packed with fans wearing his No 17 jersey for the first MLB regular-season game to be played in the country.

        He made a tentative start to his official Dodgers debut but hit a run-scoring single in the eighth inning as Los Angeles came from behind to win the game.

        The 29-year-old finished with two hits from five appearances at the plate, with one RBI.

        Ohtani said he felt "relaxed coming into the game" and was pleased with his team's fighting spirit.

        "The main thing is that we won," he said.

        "Strong teams are able to turn things around at the end and win. The more games we have like this, the more we'll be able to win.

        "It's good that we're a team that doesn't give up and can turn things around," he added.

        Ohtani announced last month that he had got married and his wife Mamiko Tanaka was in the crowd wearing a white Dodgers jersey and blue cap.

        Ohtani entered the game facing Padres starting pitcher Yu Darvish, his teammate on Japan's World Baseball Classic-winning team last year.

        Ohtani and Darvish both started their careers at Japan's Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters but they were facing each other for the first time.

        "He put everything into every ball he threw, and some great pitches came my way," Ohtani said of Darvish. "It was tough for me but I'm glad I got my first hit."

        Party atmosphere

        Ohtani got on base in his first trip to the plate but his grounder allowed the Padres to force out Dodgers lead-off hitter Mookie Betts at second.

        He got his first hit in his second at-bat, reaching first base before stealing his way to second.

        The Padres took the lead in the bottom of the third inning and pulled ahead again in the fourth after the Dodgers had evened the score.

        Ohtani was thrown out running for first base in his fourth plate appearance.

        The Dodgers turned things around in a four-run eighth inning, with Ohtani capping off the scoring by driving in Gavin Lux to huge cheers from the crowd.

        "I think with Shohei, sometimes with hitters, one swing gets you back," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

        "Just a good night overall from Shohei."

        Police searched the stadium ahead of the game in response to a reported bomb threat against Ohtani but said they found no explosives.

        Fans were treated to a pregame performance by K-pop group Aespa before Park Chan-ho, the first South Korean to play in MLB, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

        The party atmosphere continued as the game began, with music blaring and drums pounding as Betts faced Darvish for the game's first pitch.

        "It was loud — a cool atmosphere," said Dodgers starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow. "Everyone was occupied by the game. No one was on their phone or looking around, everyone was locked in, so that was cool."

        The Padres' South Korean star Kim Ha-seong finished hitless in three appearances at the plate.

        The Dodgers and Padres were due to play the second game of their series in Seoul on Thursday.

        Japan's Yoshinobu Yamamoto was set to make his debut as the Dodgers' starting pitcher, with Joe Musgrove taking the mound for the Padres.


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