MLB's Home Run Derby is tonight and will feature Los Angeles Angels megastar Shohei Ohtani front and center. This is great news for quite literally everyone. Ohtani, as many have said and will continue to say, is the closest player baseball has ever seen to Babe Ruth, capable of going seven innings with two earned one night before mashing eye-popping home run after eye-popping home run the next.
Ohtani is also Japanese and uses a translator when speaking to media. I mention this because Stephen A. Smith, back on the First Take set after a few weeks' hiatus, is at the center of controversy today because he spoke about Ohtani's need for a translator and what that means for baseball.
This is the clip currently making the rounds that has many people very upset.
The full context of his comments can be found below:
Stephen A.'s central point is that MLB will have trouble marketing Ohtani as the face of baseball because he is unable to speak English and as long as that remains true will be less popular with American audiences than, say, Bryce Harper if he were doing what Ohtani is doing. That is an especially troublesome problem for a league that already struggles to market its best players.
On a related note, here's Ohtani giving a speech entirely in English in 2019, courtesy of CBS Sports' Danny Vietti.
Regardless of whether or not you agree, tonight presents the best opportunity yet for Ohtani to prove Stephen A. and everybody else wrong. Nobody will care how much English the guy speaks after he sends baseball after baseball to the moon in that thin Colorado air during the Home Run Derby.
The "younger generation" that Stephen A. mentions and that MLB seems so worried about doesn't much care about how a player sounds or speaks. They just want to see awesome players do awesome things. Ohtani can certainly do that.
UPDATE: Stephen A. Smith responded to the backlash he received via Twitter after the segment aired.