Unanimous MVP would have been first recipient of award since 2019.

For most baseball players, the things they can do are coupled with things they can’t do. Maybe a guy can pitch, but he can’t hit. Or he might be able to become a big star in Japan, but never make it to the U.S. Major League.

Shohei Ohtani, though, continues to be an example that sometimes, one person can have it all, including each and every MVP vote. Following a 2021 season filled with incredible accomplishments, the two-way star for the L.A. Angels star was the unanimous choice as the American League’s most-valuable player. Ohtani become only the 19th unanimous-choice MVP in Major League history, and joins such legends of the game as Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, and Ken Griffey Jr.

It’s quite an honor, so much so that the Japanese government was ready to bestow yet another upon Ohtani. During a press conference on Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuo revealed that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida intended to present Ohtani with the People’s Honor Award, a commendation given to Japanese citizens for outstanding achievements in the arts, entertainment, and sports fields. The award has only been given 27 times since its initial creation in 1977, most recently to figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu following his gold medal win at the 2018 Olympics.

But you’ll notice we said the Kishida “intended,” past tense, to give Ohtani the People’s Honor Award. When the cabinet contacted Ohtani to inform him of their intent, Matsuo explained, the pitcher/slugger turned them down, saying:

“It’s too soon, so this time I will respectfully decline.”

Ohtani actually isn’t the first person to turn down the People’s Honor Award, nor even the first baseball player. Ichiro Suzuki, the last Japanese-born player to be named MVP in the Major Leagues (in 2001, though not unanimously), has turned down the award on three separate occasions, in 2001, 2004, and 2019.

▼ Ohtani wasn’t one to beat his own chest in regards to his MVP award either.

Ohtani’s polite but firm rejection of the People’s Honor Award doesn’t appear to be politically motivated, what with “it’s too soon” being his reason. “I take it as a sign of his strong determination to continue aiming higher,” said Matsuo, and looking back at recent recipients, most of them accepted the People’s Honor Award after reaching the top of their respective worlds. Hanyu’s 2018 gold medal was his second in a row, for example, and 2018’s two recipients, shogi player Yoshiharu Habu and Yuta Iyama, both held all of their game’s major titles at the time of their awards. The last baseball player to receive the award, Hideki Matsui in 2013, had become a World Series champion, and series MVP, four years prior. In contrast, Ichiro never reached the World Series.

With Ohtani just 27 years old, only four years into his Major League career, and playing better than he ever has before, it’s both understandable and admirable that he’s not comfortable receiving such big pats on the back just yet. There’s a good chance his greatest feats are yet to come, so when he says it’s “too soon,” he’s probably right.

Source: FNN Prime Online via Livedoor News via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
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