‘Imagination has become a reality’: Kim Ha-sung and Ohtani joined Darvish in the opening match of the first ever Korean ML, and Korean and Japanese superstars gathered at Gocheok Dome

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Shohei Ohtani will likely pitch his Major League Baseball opener in South Korea next year.

Ohtani agreed to a 10-year, $700 million (approximately 92.4 billion won) contract with the Dodgers on Tuesday. It is the largest contract in professional sports history. Much of the salary is deferred, saving the Dodgers money, and there is no opt-out clause.굿모닝토토

Ohtani, who emerged as one of Japan’s top stars as a two-hitter in Nippon Professional Baseball, proved he could do it in the majors when he won the American League Rookie of the Year award after signing with the Angels in 2018. In 2021, he became one of the biggest stars in the majors, batting .257 (138-for-537) with 46 homers, 100 RBIs and a .965 OPS in 155 games as a hitter and a 9-2 record with a 3.18 ERA in 23 games (130⅓ innings) as a pitcher, winning unanimous American League MVP honors.

Ohtani, who finished second in MVP voting last year as Aaron Judge (Yankees) broke the American League home run record (62) to win the award, batted .340 (151-for-497) with 44 homers, 95 RBIs and a 1.066 OPS in 135 games this year, and went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 23 games (132 innings) as a pitcher to earn his second unanimous MVP award. Ohtani is the first player in Major League Baseball history to win unanimous MVP honors twice.

When he hit free agency after the season, Ohtani drew interest from a number of teams and received astronomical offers, but none of them could match the Dodgers’ $700 million contract. Ohtani announced the news on his Instagram, writing, “To all my fans and everyone in baseball, I apologize for taking so long to make a decision. I have decided to choose the Dodgers as my next team,” he said, adding, “To all Dodger fans, I promise to always do my best for the team. I will always do my best to be the best version of myself. Until the last day of my career, I want to do my best not only for the Dodgers but also for baseball.”

Coincidentally, the Dodgers will open their regular season next year on March 21 and 22 at Gocheok SkyDome in Seoul, South Korea. The Seoul series is part of the Major League Baseball World Tour, a program that Major League Baseball is promoting to expand baseball’s reach. With the Dodgers coming to Korea, it is likely that Ohtani will also open the season at Gocheokdome.

So far, 29 cities in 11 countries have hosted Major League Baseball games. However, only Tokyo, Japan; Mexico City, Monterrey, and San Juan, Puerto Rico; Sydney, Australia; and London, England have ever hosted a Major League regular season game. South Korea will become the 12th country to host a Major League Baseball game when it opens next year at the Gocheok Dome. Seoul will be the fifth city in history to host the regular season opener, joining Monterrey, Mexico; Tokyo, Japan; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Sydney, Australia.

San Diego is home to one of South Korea’s biggest stars, Kim Ha-seong. In 152 games this year, Kim batted .266 (140-for-538) with 17 home runs, 60 RBIs, 84 runs scored, 38 doubles, and a .749 OPS, winning the National League Gold Glove for utility.

Darvish Yu, one of Japan’s top aces, is also in San Diego. After going 8-10 with a 4.56 ERA in 24 games (136⅓ innings) this year, Darvish’s season ended a bit early due to an elbow injury, but he could be back in time for next year’s season opener.

With Kim Ha-seong, Ohtani, Darvish, and other major league stars from Korea and Japan gathering at the Gocheok Dome, expectations for the Seoul Series are high. Not only in Korea, but also in Japan. There are already concerns from Japanese fans that it will be difficult to get tickets.

The anticipation and interest of Asian baseball fans for the Seoul Series between the San Diego Padres and Dodgers is growing.

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