Shohei Ohtani watch kicks into higher gear in Toronto as Blue Jays fans track private plane
Published Friday, December 8, 2023 3:31PM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 8, 2023 8:13PM EST
Shohei Ohtani watch in Toronto kicked into another gear Friday as the baseball world eagerly awaited what jersey he will wear next season.
We still don't know which team the Japanese superstar will sign with or even when a decision is coming.
On Friday afternoon, MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi reported on X that Ohtani was "en route to Toronto." However, several other baseball reporters subsequently revealed, citing unnamed sources, that the star player did not fly to the city.
The news came hours after one X (formally Twitter) user pointed to flight logs showing a private jet scheduled to fly from Anaheim, the city where Ohtani has spent his entire MLB career with the Angels, to Toronto.
That flight landed in Toronto at around 4:30 p.m., and a Canadian businessman, not Ohtani, was reportedly onboard the plane.
More than 3,000 people tracked the flight's progress via FlightRadar24, making it the most-watched plane in the world at the time.
Meanwhile, other fans took to social media on Friday to discuss what signing Ohtani might mean to the Blue Jays and their World Series chances.
Toronto rapper Drake posted on his Instagram story a photo of him wearing a shirt with Ohtani's name printed on the back.
The Canadian arm of Sapporo beer, a top-selling Japanese brand, released an "official statement" on Instagram.
"Ohtani-san, we sincerely appreciate your strong consideration of playing in Canada," the statement read. "To help you make your decision please know that Sapporo premium beer will always be available to you, on us, to help you celebrate your many victories to come in Toronto."
Others shared gambling odds with the Blue Jays among the favourites to sign Ohtani, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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In an interview with CTV News Toronto on Friday afternoon, Toronto Metropolitan University Sports Marketing Professor Cheri Bradish said that whoever ends up with Ohtani will have some really unique opportunities given his global following.
"Given his significance, he'd have a really powerful impact in the community where he plays, allowing that team to really speak to some unique demographics," Bradish said.
"Look at [Lionel] Messi going to Inter Miami, Kawhi (Leonard) to Toronto. In terms of the celebrity factor and bringing in awareness both locally and globally [..] the value of those teams just grew."
Ohtani is expected to command a contract of in excess of $500 million (U.S.), according to several media reports.
It would be the biggest contract in baseball history, surpassing the $426.5 million, 12-year deal signed by his Angels teammate Mike Trout.
But Bradish said that there will be a "real economic impact of bringing in a franchise player with a global appeal" like Ohtani.
"The economics of sport is really dictated by the market," she said.
There is still no known timeline for when Ohtani's decision will be announced. Members of the Blue Jays front office have previously refused to even say whether they have met with Ohtani, though Manager John Schneider told TSN earlier this week that this was exciting for the Jays to be “in the mix for it.”
“There are a lot of different ways to make our team better and he’s obviously a great player,” he said.