Japan’s Shohei Ohtani delivered a season for the ages, while the ‘Field of Dreams’ game staged in the middle of a cornfield reaped huge ratings, but Major League Baseball ended the year on a sour note with a work stoppage that could alienate fans.
In Ohtani’s first full MLB season as a hitter and pitcher, a feat that has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer Babe Ruth, the Los Angeles Angels standout excelled in both positions.
Dominant on the mound and at the plate, Ohtani was unanimously voted the American League Most Valuable Player.
Ohtani had stayed off the mound for nearly two full seasons after surgery in 2018 to repair an elbow ligament but returned this year to post a 9-2 record as a pitcher while hitting 46 home runs.
His stellar season came at the perfect time for MLB with fans returning to ballparks amid the COVID-19 pandemic after the 2020 season was played out in empty stadiums until late in the post-season.
Ohtani was one of the many highlights of a season where the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox played in Iowa at the site of the 1989 baseball movie “Field of Dreams”, offering one of the most picturesque locations to ever host a MLB game.
Recreating one of the magical scenes from the movie, players walked out from the surrounding cornfield wearing throwback uniforms while dramatic music from the film played.
The pandemic had delayed the showcase event by a year but when it arrived fans soaked up the atmosphere and nearly 6 million viewers tuned in, making it the most-watched MLB regular-season game since 2005.
MLB has already agreed to return next August.
But the year was not all smooth sailing for MLB, which relocated its All-Star Game to Denver from Atlanta in protest over Georgia’s new voting law that opponents have said was designed to suppress voting by Black people.
MLB’s decision prompted a conservative group representing small businesses to launch a since-dropped lawsuit against the league and its players’ union that was seeking to have the game returned to Atlanta, $100 million in damages for businesses and $1 billion in punitive damages.
To build on the momentum created in 2021, MLB may need to find a quick resolution to its first work stoppage in 26 years, or at least ensure it does not drag on long enough to jeopardize the start of the 2022 season.
MLB locked out players after failing to reach terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, halting all player activity as relates to their clubs including free-agent signings, trades and use of team facilities.
It marked MLB’s first work stoppage since the players’ strike of 1994-95, a dispute that forced a premature end to the season, delayed the start of the next year’s campaign and turned off fans, with attendances plummeting when play finally resumed.
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