Japanese baseball luminaries Hideki Kuriyama and Sadaharu Oh on Monday lauded Shohei Ohtani after the Los Angeles Angels star became the first player from the country to lead a U.S. major league in home runs.

World Baseball Classic-winning skipper Kuriyama, who gave Ohtani his professional debut in an unprecedented two-way role at the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in 2013, said the 29-year-old had achieved another major milestone by winning the American League home run crown with 44 this season.

"He ventured into MLB pledging to become the best player in the world and he keeps going, clearing one hurdle at a time. That's something that makes me really happy," said the 62-year-old Kuriyama, who lifted the WBC trophy with Ohtani in March.