Shohei Ohtani’s BP home run in Dodgers debut has already has players wanting memorabilia

Feb 19, 2024; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17)
Feb 19, 2024; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) / Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After arriving to Dodgers spring training early, Shohei Ohtani was content to stay in the background for a while. He watched Emmet Sheehan and Yoshinobu Yamamoto during bullpen sessions, hung out with Freddie Freeman's son, and avoided the media as much as he possibly could, while his teammates fielded questions about him instead.

But Ohtani can never really be in the background, can he? Cameras followed him everywhere he went, and Dave Roberts was repeatedly asked when Ohtani would be taking live batting practice for the first time. The wait was finally over on Monday; Ohtani stepped up to the plate, watched closely by hoards of onlookers outside the gates. He faced two pitchers, Ryan Brasier then Blake Treinen. He didn't swing at any of Brasier's offerings and fouled off one pitch from Treinen.

And then JP Feyereisen stepped onto the mound. Ohtani worked the count full, then Feyereisen threw a fastball down the middle of the plate, which Ohtani smashed for a home run.

Later, Feyereisen received a text from fellow reliever Evan Phillips, who suggested he shag the ball and get Ohtani to sign it as a memento.

Shohei Ohtani homers off JP Feyereisen in first Dodgers live BP

Ohtani is on track for a full recovery by Opening Day against the Padres in Seoul, on March 20, coming off an elbow surgery. He won't appear in the Dodgers' first Cactus League game this Thursday, but he is expected to appear in some spring training games later on. The Dodgers are giving Ohtani "leeway" to chart his own path through recovery at spring training, which reflects a mutual respect between the club and their highest-paid player.

The home run off of Feyereisen is just a sign of things to come. Unlike some of his Dodgers teammates, Ohtani has a clear path forward to return and hasn't given anyone anything to worry about, per his return to the field. The hype around Ohtani at this year's spring training has been fervent and frenzied, but it may be eclipsed next year, when Ohtani is the one on the mound and his teammates are trying to hit home runs off of him. If any of them do manage it, they should definitely get him to sign the ball.