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How Shohei Ohtani inspired Yoshinobu Yamamoto to be a Dodger

Yoshinobu Yamamoto smiles while addressing media during his introductory Dodgers news conference

Pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto smiles during his introductory news conference in the centerfield plaza at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Shohei Ohtani didn’t attend Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s introductory news conference, but he didn’t have to.

Listen back to what Yamamoto said. Ohtani was everywhere

“Starting today,” Yamamoto said in Japanese, “in the truest sense, I have to stop admiring.”

The words, and the feelings behind them, were inspired by a speech Yamamoto heard earlier in the year when playing for Japan in the World Baseball Classic. The address in question was delivered by Ohtani before the championship game against the United States.

“From me, just one thing,” Ohtani said. “Let’s stop admiring them.”

Yoshinobu Yamamoto hugs Shohei Ohtani on the field.Yoshinobu Yamamoto hugs Shohei Ohtani on the field.

Ohtani pointed to the famous players in the Team USA lineup: Paul Goldschmidt at first base, Mike Trout in center field and Mookie Betts in right.

“There are players known by anyone who plays baseball,” Ohtani said. “If you admire them, you can’t surpass them. We came here to surpass them, to reach the top. For one day, let’s throw away our admiration for them and just think about winning.”

Japan defeated the U.S. 3-2, with Ohtani finishing the game by striking out Trout.

As much as Yamamoto tried to maintain a respectful distance from Ohtani on Wednesday — Yamamoto said he probably would have ended up with the Dodgers even if Ohtani had signed with another team — he couldn’t.

The Dodgers have dominated the offseason, with player acquisitions totaling more than $1 billion. In reality, it’s Ohtani who has controlled the winter, as the revenue he promises to generate has liberated the previously risk-averse Dodgers and galvanized them into taking the kinds of gambles required to win a World Series.

Read more: Hernández: Shohei Ohtani’s $680-million loan to Dodgers made Yoshinobu Yamamoto deal possible

If not for the $50 million the Dodgers could make in Ohtani-related sponsorship deals, they might not have traded for Tyler Glasnow and signed him to a five-year, $136.5-million contract.

If not for the hundreds of millions they could make by investing the $680 million in Ohtani’s salary deferrals, they probably wouldn’t have built up the resolve to sign the undersized Yamamoto to a 12-year, $325-million contract.

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