Shohei Ohtani is a Japanese two-way superstar and had the American League MVP in 2021 and World Baseball Classic MVP in 2023.
How did his parents raise him to be one of the best players in MLB?
What have they done to develop Otani’s talent?
I will tell you from a parenting perspective!
From the perspective of developing Shohei’s talent, the following points were important.
Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Shohei Ohtani Parents
Shohei Ohtani`s parents and siblings are following.
Both parents were athletes.
Otani was born and raised in the rich natural environment of Mizusawa City (now Oshu City), Iwate Prefecture.
Parenting of Otani’s Parents (How to Develop Children’s Talents)
Otani’s parents’ parenting and involvement in developing their child’s talents were
- Look at Your Child Closely
- Make Effective Communication
- Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem
- Support Your Child to Immerse Him/Herself
I will explain them in detail.
Look at Your Child Closely
Shohei’s parents look at their children closely and understand what the children wanted to do and how they wanted to do it.
Shohei’s mother (Kayoko) is an excellent badminton player, but she did not know much about baseball.
However, she observed Shohei very carefully and thought it would be a good idea for him to become a two-way player and told him.
Surprisingly, her proposal was made before the Nippon Ham Fighters, the Japanese professional baseball team picked Shohei Otani in the draft and suggested that Otani become a two-way player.
When I was talking with Shohei about his career path, I said to him, “You can be both a pitcher and a hitter, can’t you? (Laughs.)”
I had an image in my mind that Shohei would become a pitcher like Yu Darvish when he became a professional baseball player. But in high school, he didn’t have good results as a pitcher, and he seemed to be unsatisfied, and he seemed to show his potential to be a good hitter. I thought to myself, “If that’s the case, why not do both?”
Shohei said at the time, “The world of professional baseball is one in which pitchers and hitters each strive to the death to obtain their position. In that world, it is disrespectful to the pitchers and hitters who are making the effort that I want to play both pitcher and hitter.
The proposal to be a two-way player was made by the Nippon Ham Fighters, the professional baseball team that drafted Otani, to persuade him to become a professional baseball player in Japan, as he was eager to go to the MLB right after high school graduation.
Even before that, however, his mother, Kayoko, saw that it would be best for Otani to do both based on his high school experience and made the suggestion.
Of course, Ohtani brushed off her suggestion at that time as she was not familiar with baseball.
His mother saw that Otani had not pitched well enough in high school due to injuries and that he had regrets about that, so she made the suggestion.
Eventually, what his mother suggested became a reality.
Otani was successful to serve regularly as both a position player and pitcher in Japanese professional baseball and Major League Baseball.
It is important to watch and observe your child closely.
You don’t have to be an expert in the field your child is aiming for.
I think it is important to observe and think carefully about what is good for the child.
Incidentally, my father is a professional educator who worked as a teacher for many years, and he often says that one of the most important things parents can do is to “just watch their children carefully”.
Make Effective Communication
When Otani was a child, his father (Toru) was the manager of his youth baseball team.
As a manager, he had to be strict at times, but at the same time, as a father, he treated Otani with great affection.
It is very difficult to keep this balance.
However, Toru maintain warmth and communication and valued his involvement as a father.
As a manager, it was difficult in some respects to deal with my child.
I made sure my child knew that when he played baseball, he had to think about his language because I was the manager.
But instead of being strict as a manager, I took a bath with my children as soon as I got home. There, as a father, I would talk about baseball with Shohei. Shohei just listened to what I had to say, but now that I think about it, it was probably an important time for him.
We used to take baths together until about the second year of junior high school. Shohei might not like me talking about this (laughs).
Surprisingly, Otani took baths with his father until he was in the second grade of junior high school.
His father, who had been strict with him as the manager of the youth baseball team, would speak kindly, affectionately, and lovingly to Otani as a father while they bathed together when they returned home.
I imagine that it must have made Otani very happy to hear his father’s words as if he was wishing for Otani’s personal growth.
Through effective communication, children would have received many messages from their parents and used them to help them grow.
Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Otani’s parents were very respectful of their child’s intentions.
Otani was a high school pitcher who threw a 160 km/h fastball and a home run hitter who hit 56 home runs in high school. Because of this, Otani was very much in the spotlight.
He was strongly attracted to the Major League Baseball scouts who were always looking at him throughout his three years of high school. Ohtani was eager to go to the Major League Baseball right after graduating from high school.
Until then, no Japanese player had ever made it to the Major League Baseball immediately after graduating from high school. There have been such players in Korea, but they have not been successful enough.
His parents, led by his father who was a baseball player, did not wholeheartedly agree with Ohtani’s choice.
However, they did not reject their child’s choice out of hand, and Otani publicly announced that he would join Major League Baseball.
Later, after careful persuasion, including a nomination by the Nippon Ham Fighters, a Japanese professional baseball team, and an unprecedented proposal to become a two-way player, Ohtani decided to join the Japanese professional baseball team.
I believe that his parents respected Otani’s desire to enter the Major League Baseball because he had a strong “sense of adventure” to try something unprecedented.
I think Shohei has always had an adventurous spirit, wanting to do what others cannot do.
When he entered Hanamaki-Higashi High School, he said, “If Yusei Kikuchi (*) and his team had won the national championship in their generation, I would have entered a different high school,” and when he said he wanted to challenge the Major Leagues, he said he wanted to be a pioneer.
Shohei wants to do something that no one has ever done before.
I was once told, “If Shohei is going to be both a pitcher and a hitter, he will never hit 2,000 hits or win 200 games,” and at that time I thought, “Why not both 1,000 hits and 100 wins?
（＊）Yusei Kikuchi is three years his senior at Hanamaki-Higashi High School, the same school as Otani. He was the runner-up in the National High School Baseball Tournament. After playing professional baseball in Japan, he went on to play in the Major Leagues. Pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ohtani entered Hanamaki-Higashi High School to become the number one high school player in Japan.
His goal was to do what he had not been able to accomplish even when Yusei Kikuchi was the center of attention in his high school.
He wanted to go to the Major Leagues and challenge himself to do something that no one had done before.
When the Nippon Ham Fighters offered him the chance to become a two-way player, something no one had ever achieved in modern baseball, Otani decided to take on this challenge.
His father (Mr. Toru) was present when the proposal for a two-way player was made, and he said that
Shohei looked delighted. He was already very motivated.
Otani’s favorite quote from his senior year of high school was
“Preconceived notions make the possible impossible.”
These words are so powerful and determined that it is hard to believe that they came from a high school senior.
What do parents value in their children?
They valued their child’s will and watched over him with a flexible mindset that was not bound by conventional wisdom.
I believe that Ohtani’s growth was made possible by his parents’ commitment to what was important to their children and their free and open-minded approach.
Support Your Child to Immerse Him/Herself
When Otani was in elementary school, his father was the team manager.
Every day he kept an exchange notebook about baseball with his father.
He wrote down what he noticed about the practices and games he had played today, what he did well and what he didn’t do well, and submitted them to his father.
The father would read it and write back his impressions in the notebook.
There were three things that his father emphasized to Otani.
”Do the three points well. If you work hard, something good will surely come out of it.”
His father did not want Ohtani to achieve results, but rather to work hard and steadily to do what anyone can do, which he believed would lead to his growth.
The father said the following in an interview.
My policy is not to tell them to hit, not to make errors, or to make fine plays, but to practice these three things properly, focusing on things that anyone can do.
I believe that as long as we can steadily work on these three things first, it will lead to the growth of the players.
Conversely, when Otani was not working hard enough, his father wrote harsh words in an exchange notebook.
In response, Otani wrote
He wrote this in his notebook and reflected on it.
I thought that his father’s teachings were tied to Otani’s ability to work hard and execute his daily efforts.
From Otani’s interview, we can read that the secret to his growth is that he loves baseball and “enjoys working hard” to grow in the game he loves.
After each at-bat, I discover something new every day, like, “That was bad,” or “This part was good,” and I like the time I spend thinking about how I can change things.
If I were to ask which is more important, baseball as a job or the intrinsic enjoyment of baseball, the enjoyment of the baseball I have always played is the main part.
With each passing day, I can see where I am lacking, and it makes me feel that I can still get better, and I am very happy that I have so much to do.
When I was children (born in the 1970s), I think the value of working hard was emphasized.
Somewhere along the line, I feel that the values of doing things efficiently, focusing on results, and doing it easily if it will produce the same results have become more prevalent.
Seeing Otani’s attitude, I have a renewed sense of the importance of “working hard,” a value that I also have within myself and that my parents passed down to me. Above all, I love the way he “enjoys working hard” at what he loves.
Of course, it is important to obtain results, but even more important is to work hard first, and this will lead to growth.
These are old and new but very important values.
28 years old, Shohei Ohtani has achieved unprecedented success as one of the world’s top athletes.
Here are four ways in which his parents have interacted with Ohtani and supported his development.
Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem
We hope that you too will help your child develop his or her talents and grow up to be a big success.
Based on original interviews with the player himself and others involved, this book summarizes the origins of Ohtani’s two-way MVP in the majors. Highly recommended! Book in Japanese.