Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani is the latest big name to join the Fanatics roster, the sports memorabilia company announced Wednesday.
Ohtani has agreed to a deal with the firm that makes it the exclusive distributor of Ohtani memorabilia, including autographs, collectibles, signed baseballs, bats, game-used merchandise and other goods.
Ohtani’s popularity has exploded this year as the 27-year-old has excelled as the first truly two-way player since the the days of the Negro Leagues and of Babe Ruth in MLB.
The tie-up between the MLB star and Fanatics has been in the making for a long time.
“We look for exclusive athletes who add a lot of value to our fanbase and customer base,” said Masanori Kawana, the company’s managing director for East Asia. “We’ve been looking at the opportunity to sign with Ohtani for quite a while.
“For the past few months, we’ve been excited to get this finalized. With his performance on the field, we’re just so excited. We’ve been looking for special athletes like him.”
Ohtani turned heads on the mound and at the plate with the Angels in 2018, and was named AL Rookie of the Year that season. The Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, native broke through into superstardom with his play this season.
Ohtani is leading MLB with 34 home runs and also batting .274 with 74 RBIs and 12 stolen bases as a hitter. Ohtani the pitcher is 4-1 with a 3.21 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 73 innings. He tossed six scoreless frames in his latest start, against the Oakland Athletics on Monday.
Ohtani recently became the first player voted into the MLB All-Star Game as both a hitter and pitcher, and also took part in the home run derby.
“Since we began selling Ohtani merchandise last week tied to the All-Star Game, he quickly became the top-selling MLB player,” Kawana said.
Ohtani memorabilia is already selling 10 times more than that of the next highest player.
Kawana said Ohtani’s popularity is without comparison in Japan and that Fanatics is working to making more of his authentic goods available in Japan through the deal.
“We still haven’t gotten the right channel in place locally, which we are actually bringing in over the next couple (of) months,” Kawana said. “We’re going to have our own channel to distribute Ohtani products. I’m sure there is going to be a lot of demand for his merchandise.”
According to the Fanatics release, Ohtani joins a long list of prominent athletes who have signed with the company, including NFL great Tom Brady and MLB stars like Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge, among others.
“It’s an honor to join Fanatics as their latest exclusive athlete,” Ohtani said in a statement released by the firm. “Their global presence and reach throughout both the United States and Japan will help provide fans everywhere access to incredible products.”
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Source : Baseball – The Japan Times