Angels charmed Shohei Ohtani to win recruiting battle

first_imgSo winning the Ohtani lottery was essentially about wooing him with factors other than money.The Angels took their turn on Monday night, with owner Arte Moreno, General Manager Billy Eppler and Manager Mike Scioscia leading the contingent that spent about two hours selling Ohtani in a conference room at his agent’s office in Los Angeles.Eppler said Scioscia cracked a few self-deprecating jokes that made Ohtani laugh. Mike Trout, who couldn’t attend because he was back east preparing for his wedding, got on FaceTime and made his pitch to Ohtani.“He basically explained to me how great the Angels were,” Ohtani said. “He said we have a great clubhouse, and how much he would enjoy having me here. I took those words to heart and I’m here.”But Eppler had no idea as he walked out of Monday’s meeting if their pitch had been successful.“I don’t want to liken it to a job interview or an episode of ‘The Bachelorette’, but you really had no read,” Eppler said. “I liken it to going through the GM interview process. You don’t know the impression you made, but you are all hands on deck to jump through the hoops the next time they call.”The Angels did well enough to earn a call-back, so to speak, with Ohtani coming to Angel Stadium for a tour and a second round of questions on Thursday night. Eppler said his questions seemed more direct and detailed this time, but the GM still went to sleep unsure.Eppler said Nez Balelo, Ohtani’s agent, told him the decision could be within 24 hours, or it could be a week or 10 days away. He said Ohtani might even go back to Japan to mull it over.On Friday morning around 11, though, Eppler got a call from Balelo and heard the words: “Shohei Ohtani wants to be an Angel.”A cheer went up in the Angels offices and Eppler quickly called owner Arte Moreno, just as Balelo was releasing the news to the world.“It was a great moment,” Eppler said. “I walked out and high-fived guys. This is our time.” ANAHEIM — Fans and general managers of 29 other teams were probably hoping that Shohei Ohtani’s introductory news conference with the Angels would provide some hints as to what led him to shun their teams.They would be disappointed.Again.“It’s hard to explain,” Ohtani said, speaking via an interpreter. “With the Angels I just felt something click.” Angels welcome Shohei Ohtani, while only hinting at how the two-way dream will work Related Articles Ohtani spoke several times on Saturday about a “connection” or a “feeling,” feeding the impression that his decision to sign with the Angels was more personal than anything based on quantifiable baseball reasons.“When you break it all down, there were so many factors,” Ohtani said. “I just felt that I wanted to play for the Angels. It’s something I cannot describe in words.”The recruitment of Ohtani was unique in modern baseball because of a perfect storm of talent and the collective bargaining agreement.There have been other extremely talented players to come to the majors from international leagues, but in most cases they have been unrestricted free agents. The bidding wars were so fierce that many small-market teams couldn’t even participate with the big-money clubs.Ohtani, however, decided to come to the majors as a 23-year-old about a year after baseball rules were changed to place any international player under 25 within the limits of international spending pools. The largest bonus he could receive was less than $4 million, a price all 30 teams in the majors could afford. Twenty-seven teams submitted written and multimedia presentations, at his agent’s request. Miller: How much did Shohei Ohtani’s decision surprise the Angels? Even more than you think Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more