Watch How Japanese Fans Treat Shohei Ohtani’s Home Run Ball

Most polite spectators in the world? We could learn a thing or two.

Ohtani hits a home run at the World Baseball Classic.
"Shotime" hit one to the moon this Sunday.
Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images

All of a sudden, this sort of feels like Japan’s tournament to lose, no?

While heavyweights like the United States and the Dominican Republic stumbled over the first full weekend of World Baseball Classic play, Japan improved its record to a perfect 4-0. The nation has scored 38 runs, given up just eight, and is led by a man who sure as hell looks like the best ballplayer in the world.

Here’s Shohei Ohtani’s stat line after dominant wins over Australia, Korea, the Czech Republic and China: .500 BA, eight RBI, and a cartoonish OPS of 1.684. In his one start on the hill, he tossed four scoreless innings and struck out five.

While Japan did emerge from a weaker group (Australia will advance as the Pool B runner-up!), winning baseball games is always hard, and they’re winning them convincingly. Next up? A bout with Italy, with a trip to the semifinals in Miami on the line.

Here’s hoping that they keep winning, and Ohtani keeps mashing, which should give us more unforgettable moments like this:

After Ohtani went yard against Australia on Sunday evening, destroying a three-run, 448-foot moonshot in the first inning, Tokyo Dome spectators proceeded to pass the ball around, making sure each fan in the bleachers got a moment or two to cradle the ball, take photos, etc.

This behavior has no precedent in American baseball. Any ball special enough to be passed around is usually fought over in a tooth-chipping scrum. I was in Section 236 for Aaron Judge’s 60th home run last summer, too many rows away to make a real bid for the ball, but it got pretty gnarly. And even with that hindsight — I know I would’ve leapt on it if I had the chance.

Some have reacted to that video with disgust for the casual savagery of MLB fandom (Citizens Bank Park, home to Philadelphia Phillies fans, has been invoked a few times), and that’s certainly one way to look at it. Perhaps we should get in a habit of appreciating and sharing history-making plays…not Hunger Games‘ing each other for a potential payout.

Numerous reports over the years have highlighted Japan’s polite and dependable public behavior. For instance: the Japanese are more likely to return lost or stolen property like phones, wallets or IDs. Something to shoot for Stateside? Absolutely.

If nothing else, though, this is a reminder that baseball is alive and well, all over the planet. A tournament like the WBC gives us all a rare, fun chance to see how others treat the sport.

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