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Major Leaguer Shohei Ohtani made a personal announcement, and fans can't handle it

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

All over the globe, fans of Shohei Ohtani are in mourning.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Crying) Shohei Ohtani is married.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: I didn't even know he was taken - married.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Congratulations (crying).

SIMON: The world's most famous baseball player has revealed that he indeed is married. We don't know who or much about her, save for the fact that she is, in the player's phrase, a normal Japanese woman. It's been huge news, especially in Japan. Jason Coskrey covers baseball for The Japan Times. Joins us now from Tokyo. Thanks so much for being with us.

JASON COSKREY: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: How are you coping?

COSKREY: It's hard, you know? It's hard when you have an athlete like this who's just suddenly off the market, you know? So we're all making it, though. We're all making it.

SIMON: Thank you. Thank you for making the time to speak with us. Help us understand the feeling there in Japan.

COSKREY: It's insane. On the day he announced it, it was in an afternoon, and news programs cut into what they were talking about at the time, as if there were some just massive breaking news, as if there's a new pope elected. They cut into what they were talking about. Shohei Ohtani got married. You had newscasters reading the Instagram post off a phone on camera. It was just - it was wild, and it was - there were at least one place in Iwate, the prefecture where he's from - they did a special edition of the newspaper and handed it out. I guess to put it in terms most people could understand, just imagine if Taylor Swift wasn't dating Travis Kelce and she just one day said, Travis Kelce and I are married. That's basically the impact it had.

SIMON: Yeah, but we know Travis Kelce. We know nothing about Shohei Ohtani's wife - right? - unless you want to tell us.

COSKREY: He hasn't told us anything. People have speculated many things, but he's kept that very close to his vest, similarly to what Hideki Matsui did when he got married in 2008. All he did was he drew a picture of his wife and held it up for reporters. It is the most popular sport in Japan, and it's getting even more popular because you have players going to the major leagues and then players who we think are going to go to the major leagues, so they become even bigger stars because of that. And a lot of Japanese baseball players do this when they marry people who aren't public figures. They just - they like to keep their private lives as private as they can. So it's just - it's not that uncommon to have a marriage announcement and not have an actual partner be announced.

SIMON: As I don't have to tell you - in fact, I probably don't have to tell almost anybody - Shohei Ohtani has signed a $700 million contract with the Dodgers. He is the biggest star on what, along with the Yankees, is just about the biggest team in American baseball. He's been famous. Is his level of fame about to take a whole big jump, even now?

COSKREY: I think it might take a big jump in America, and it might take a big jump around the world. It's hard to imagine how much more famous he can become in Japan, but he's already - everything he does is already on the news in Japan. It's hard to imagine him getting even more popular here.

SIMON: I mean, he could be the best ballplayer of all time, right?

COSKREY: He very well could be, because you just don't see what he's doing. I mean, both pitching and hitting as a two-way player is just - it's what you do in video games. You don't do it in real life. And the fact that he's a very good pitcher and a very good hitter just takes it to another level.

SIMON: Jason Coskrey, sportswriter for The Japan Times, thanks so much for being with us.

COSKREY: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.