Shohei Ohtani might be one of the greatest players that baseball has ever seen. Dubbed the Michael Jordan of baseball, he is, arguably, one of two players in history to excel in both pitching and batting—the last player to do it at a high level was Babe Ruth.
When he finally hit free agency in November 2023, many assumed that he would sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In many ways, The Dodgers are similar to Ohtani’s previous team, the Los Angeles Angels, as they offered a massive Japanese market, plenty of financial flexibility, and a high chance for Ohtani to finally make the playoffs and win a World Series. Toronto Blue Jays fans could only dream of signing a marquee-free agent of a similar level, let alone one of the greatest superstars to ever hit the open market.
However, as free agency progressed, the Blue Jays kept coming up in Ohtani rumours. On November 28, Blue Jays General Manager Ross Atkins expressed that Rogers Communications, which owns the Blue Jays, would support the pursuit of the Japanese superstar. “We’ve always had incredible support from ownership to make this team better,” Atkins said. “We’re one of the few markets, I believe, that has the ability to be nimble.” With that, Blue Jays fans became hopeful.
The same week, it was reported that Ohtani met with the Blue Jays at their state-of-the-art spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida, a clear sign that this pursuit was serious in nature. Ohtani had previously stated that he would hold it against a team if his visit to them was publicly reported, so this news was met with mixed reactions from fans: some were excited to hear that their team was in on the biggest free agent in baseball history, while others worried that the reports compromised the Blue Jay’s chance at signing Ohtani.
On December 6, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts publicly confirmed that he and his organization met with Ohtani at Dodger Stadium for a few hours, and that was all it took for Blue Jays fans to start their celebrations. Still, some fans thought this “leak” was the fatal flaw in the Dodgers’ negotiations with Ohtani.
On the night of December 7, an anonymous X user noticed that a private jet was scheduled to fly from Anaheim to Toronto the following morning, December 8. In a now-deleted post, the user shared the plane’s tail number, and Jays fans quickly concluded that it was Ohtani’s plane. Then, on the morning of December 8, Canadian opera singer Clarence Frazer posted on X that Yusei Kikuchi, a Jays pitcher and good friend of Ohtani, had reserved an entire Toronto sushi restaurant for 50+ people. Fans ran wild, making the supposed “Ohtani flight” the most tracked flight on FlightRadar24 for the day.
Throughout the day, Torontonians truly believed that Ohtani was on the plane to Toronto. Toronto Maple Leafs player Max Domi tweeted, “LFG @BlueJays !!!” Even Drake posted a picture of himself in an Ohtani jersey.
At 4:01 pm, 30 minutes before the mystery plane was set to arrive in Toronto, credible insider Jon Morosi reported that Shohei Ohtani was en route to Toronto. Soon after, Dodgers writer JP Hoornstra published an article claiming that the deal was done. Ohtani was a Blue Jay.
As a Blue Jays fan, that moment was pure euphoria. Toronto finally had a superstar willing to sign for them. Fans erupted in joy across social media.
But it took only an hour for their worlds to come crashing down. Reports indicated that Ohtani was still at home and not heading to Toronto. Blue Jays insider Ben Nicholson Smith posted on X that Ohtani had yet to decide.
The next day, Ohtani signed a 10-year $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, delivering the final blow to Blue Jays fans. The exhausting saga exposed credible journalists like Jon Morosi and JP Hoornstra for publishing false reports. Jays fans were understandably upset at the two for getting their hopes up, prompting the two to publicly apologize to baseball fans for their irresponsible reporting.
But what’s new? Torontonians experienced a similar situation in 2019 when Kawhi Leonard joined the Clippers over the Raptors. This was just yet Toronto sports letdown added to the list. Let’s hope 2024 brings better luck to the Canadian sporting scene.
Raptors Wrap-Up Columnist (Volume 50) — Justyn is in his final year at UTM studying CCIT, with minors in Professional Writing & Communication and Computer Science. Sports is his passion and he loves to keep in touch with nearly every single one. Justyn’s always watching sports games, managing his fantasy teams, and listening to music in the music room. You can connect with him on Instagram or LinkedIn.