It was the Angels’ home opener April 7. Mike Trout blasted a 441-foot home run. He flipped his bat and trotted around the bases. Waiting at the top of the dugout steps for Trout was Brett Phillips, holding an ornate, navy-and-gold headpiece.
Trout recognized what it represented, took off his batting helmet and let the home run celebration helmet be placed on his head.
By now, fans have become familiar with the Angels’ home run celebration headpiece, a samurai warrior helmet, known as a kabuto. The Angels have taken it wherever they have gone this season, and it has made a celebration appearance 111 times after the Angels beat the Chicago White Sox 4-2 on Tuesday thanks to the latest heroics from Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani crushed two monster home runs against the White Sox at Angel Stadium. He didn’t wear the kabuto after the first home run because he was focused on pitching in the next inning. The team instead gave it to interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, glimpses of which Ohtani saw after the game.
“He wasn’t wearing it properly, so I thought it was a buzzkill,” Ohtani joked in Japanese and laughed.
The Angels’ kabuto was picked out by Ohtani and introduced to the team as a surprise during the first homestand of the year and one year after the Angels used Trout’s cowboy hat to celebrate homers. It’s become so popular, the apparel company RotoWear designed T-shirts featuring the Angels’ kabuto. And fans have also shown up to games sporting paper kabutos on their heads.
The Japanese company that manufactured the helmet, Marutake Industry, has been so overwhelmed by kabuto inquiries that it made a separate website for overseas orders. Marutake also created a second Angels kabuto, completing a samurai warrior ensemble as a thank you, and donated it to the Angels ahead of the team’s Japanese heritage night Tuesday at Angel Stadium.
Marutake Industry donated to the Angels a complete custom samurai warrior armor. The kabuto here is not the same one the Angels use for their home run celebrations. The company made a second one for the display. pic.twitter.com/meqpYYwbvT
— Sarah Valenzuela (@Sarah_IsabelVee) June 27, 2023
The kabuto, a symbol of the strength of the Angels’ offense this season, is also a display of Japanese culture.
“They’re very honored that the Angels and Shohei have been using the kabuto,” Yuma Ogawa, a representative of Katchu Kobo Marutake, said in Japanese through an interpreter, “and that they’re able to share Japanese culture through this, not just to the U.S., but to the world.”
As for the Angels, the kabuto has been there for several key moments and milestones, either perched on a sculpture of a skull (named Mr. Fidgets) with a dugout-level view or placed on the head of the next Angels batter who hits a homer.
Trout wore the kabuto in the dugout in Denver after his home run Saturday gave him 1,100 career runs, an Angels record. Ohtani had it on as he received high-fives in the dugout after he hit his 201st combined professional home run (between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball league) Monday in Anaheim.
The kabuto has been there for six Troutani moments — when Ohtani and Trout have homered in the same game — out of seven total this season. It’s also been there for two back-to-back-back home run games this season, the first in Anaheim and the second in Denver on Saturday, when the kabuto went for a spin five times in a 25-run game for the Angels.
It was there for Hunter Renfroe’s first home run of the season, at Angel Stadium on April 8. Mr. Fidgets was broken before the kabuto was handed to Renfroe, and some of the players thought it was the kabuto that was damaged (the kabuto is made of metal, so it’s pretty sturdy and heavy). It was there when Mickey Moniak homered the day he was called up to the big leagues May 13, coincidentally his birthday.
The home run, though a big piece of the Angels’ offense because of the players on their roster — like Trout, Ohtani, Renfroe and Brandon Drury — hasn’t been their only notable mark on offense. Before Tuesday’s game, the Angels ranked in the top 10 in the majors in runs (sixth with 403), hits (eighth with 710), runs batted in (sixth with 390), walks (fifth with 281), batting average (ninth at .258) and on-base-plus-slugging rate (fourth at .777).
“We have a deep lineup,” Trout said. “Obviously a couple guys are banged up right now, but even the guys coming up right now like Mickey, just filling in nice.”
Through Tuesday, Ohtani leads the majors with 28 home runs. Trout is in a three-way tie for sixth in the AL with 17. Brandon Drury and Renfroe have 13 and 12 home runs, respectively, while Taylor Ward has nine homers and Moniak has seven.
“You got guys like Sho and Mike and Fro and everybody known for hitting homers,” Moniak said, “but then you got us young guys who are coming up and don’t necessarily have the track record. I think that we’re just being able to show what we can do as a team, and I think we got a really dangerous lineup from top to bottom, even the bench.”
Added Angels hitting coach Marcus Thames: “These guys are really talented. Just get them to believe in their work.”
Shohei Ohtani’s milestone night vs. White Sox
After Shohei Ohtani hit a 418-foot home run in the first inning, fans in the right-field seats held up large letters that spelled out “OHTANILAND.”
In Ohtaniland on Tuesday, the two-way star struck out 10, his final pitching line including one run, four hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings.
Whether he feels like he is now hitting and pitching his best, Ohtani offered in Japanese through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara: “Hitting-wise, it’s up there for sure.”
Ohtani’s fingernail already had a small crack in it before the game and gradually got worse as the night wore on. He has not yet talked about when he will make his next start.
“Haven’t really discussed my next outing, which day yet, so we have to see about that,” he said. “But I feel like I came out of the game before it got too bad. So the plan is to go on schedule.”
Ohtani’s three-for-three night at the plate, with two home runs, two RBIs and a walk, accounted for half of the Angels’ run total. His pitching allowed him to check off more milestones.
His first-inning home run gave him his ninth career instance of homering during a game in which he was the starting pitcher, his fourth such occurrence this season. His second home run made him the first American League player to hit multiple homers and rack up 10 or more strikeouts on the mound as the starting pitcher in the same game since Pedro Ramos did so for Cleveland against the Angels on July 31, 1963.
Ohtani is the sixth player since 1900 to hit multiple home runs and strike out 10 or more in the same game.
It was also the first time Ohtani hit two home runs in a game during which he was also the starting pitcher.
He tied an Angels record by hitting 13 home runs in June. His batting average improved to .304 with a 1.040 OPS.
Racking up 37 pitching strikeouts in June, he surpassed his own record of most home runs hit in a month since 1900 while also striking out at least 30 batters, according to MLB’s Sarah Lang.
On the mound, his opponent batting average is .180, which leads the all of baseball, and an opponents’ OPS of .600.
Ohtani also leads the league in OPS and RBI (64).
“We’re seeing things everyday that we’ve never seen before and you try not to take it for granted,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said.
A few M-V-P chants rang out for Ohtani by his fifth-inning at-bat. The announced crowd of 33,637 was screaming it after his second home run.
“A similar thing happened in ‘21,” Ohtani said. “It’s always a good thing to hear from the fans. It gives me a lot of motivation to do better.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
Source: Yahoo Sports