Shohei Otani might as well be stepping into the swirling winds of a tempest each time he takes the mound for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

The young ace’s starts have become events in their own right. Fans are usually eager to see him dominate hitters, whether he’s blowing 160-plus-kph heaters by them, making them look silly with his forkball or using a slow curve to toy with them. Scouts from Major League Baseball teams also turn out, jotting down notes as they sit with radar guns at the ready, to relay information back home, where a feeding frenzy will take place should Otani ever become available.

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