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Baseball: Ohtani receives rookie honor, praised by Angels GM as pioneer

Shohei Ohtani, left, of the Los Angeles Angels delivers a speech at a Baseball Writers' Association of America event in New York on Jan. 26, 2019. (Kyodo)

NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- Slugging Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani was hailed as a pioneer when he received his American League Rookie of the Year Award on Saturday and then gave his acceptance speech in English.

The awards ceremony is sponsored by the Baseball Writers Association of America and takes place at a dinner in New York. The Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year awards are handed out by the BBWAA, whose members take part in the voting.

Ohtani's parents traveled from Japan to attend, as did a contingent from the Angels, including general manager Billy Eppler, who introduced the Japanese star.

Eppler noted how teams have begun looking for players who can produce both at the plate and on the mound, something considered impossible prior to Ohtani's appearance in the majors last year.

"People that take on the unknown are called pioneers, and we learn from them and they show us a new path," Eppler said.

"Now I look around and I see teams, including the Angels, drafting two-way players, I see us exploring two-way roles for some position players who show a little arm strength and the ability to spin a breaking ball. Shohei, you're walking that path and showing it can be done. That makes you a pioneer."

Ohtani joined the Angels from the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, and became the only player other than Babe Ruth to hit 15 home runs and pitch 50 innings in a season.

Ohtani's speech in English consisted of thanking various groups and individuals. He thanked the Angels for their "warm welcome from Day 1" and their "unconditional support," his parents for coming all the way from Japan, and his interpreter, the ubiquitous Ippei Mizuhara.

He concluded his speech by holding up his notes and saying, "Hopefully, I will not need this cheat sheet the next time I'm up here."

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