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Cardinals praying for title

Los Angeles, United States — Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani confirmed on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time) he is joining the Los Angeles Dodgers in a record-breaking 10-year, $700 million deal — the richest contract in baseball history.

The future of the 29-year-old Los Angeles Angels ace had been the subject of intense speculation sin ce the two-way star entered free agency at the end of the season.

Ohtani eventually opted for the Dodgers afte r a frenzied battle for his signature which also included interest from the Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants.

“To all the fans and everyone involved in the baseball world, I apologize for taking so long to come to a decision,” Ohtani wrote on Instagram. 

“I have decided to choose the Dodgers as my nex t team.

“I pledge to always do what’s best for the team and always continue to give it my all to be the best version of myself. 

“Until the last day of my playing career, I want to continue to strive forward not only for the Dodgers but for the baseball world,” Ohtani added.

Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo said in a statement the deal would be worth $700 million over 10 years, shattering the record for the biggest contract in baseball history. 

Balelo described Ohtani’s mammoth payday as a “unique historic contract, for a unique historic player .”

“Shohei is thrilled to be a part of the Dodgers organization,” Balelo said. “He is excited to begin this partnership.”

Ohtani has taken Major League Baseball by storm since landing in the league in 2018, with his almost unheard of combination of elite pitching and hitting prowess earning him comparisons to Babe Ruth.

Although his talents were not enough to help spark a revival in the Angels’ fortunes – the team failed to make the playoffs following his arrival – Ohtani nevertheless dazzled in a flagging franchise.

He has twice been named American League Most Valuable Player, in 2021 and 2023, on both occasions winning by unanimous vote – the only player in history to achieve that distinction.

Although elbow injuries have cut short his pitching appearances – he missed the final month of the 2023 campaign with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow – this season was his most successful to date.

As a designated hitter, Ohtani led the AL in home runs with 44, in on-base percentage (.412), slugging percentage (.654) and total bases (325).

He hit 26 doubles and eight triples with 20 stolen bases and 95 runs-batted-in. He hit over .300 for the first time in his six-year major league career.

In 23 pitching starts he went 10-5 with a 3.14 earned-run-average and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings.

He had the lowest batting average against (.184) among all AL pitchers with at least 130 innings.

It marked Ohtani’s second straight season with at least 10 wins on the mound and 10 home runs at the plate.

The only other player to accomplish that feat was New York Yankees legend Ruth back in 1918.

MANILA, Philippines — When Mapua coach Randy Alcantara politely begged off from the customary post-game interview following his team’s 68-63 victory over San Beda in Game 1 of the NCAA Season 99 finale due to hypertension, he was already feeling the enormity of the situation.

He was facing destiny.

And that is what the soft-spoken Alcantara and his magnificent Mapua Cardinals will shoot for as they go for the coup de grace and sweep the young and hungry Lions in Game 2 today at the MOA Arena.

Mapua, however, should also expect the best from San Beda as it seeks its first NCAA crown in 32 years when Alcantara was still playing for the Cardinals.

“Kailangan maging ready lang kami,” said Mapua captain Warren Bonifacio, speaking in behalf of Alcantara.

Truly, preparation is the key.

In the opener, the Cardinals threw the defensive blanket on Jacob Cortez, who was held scoreless in the first half before whipping up a 12-point barrage in the final half that proved to be futile in the end against the former’s marauding defense.

They also held the Lions’ once hawk-eyed shooters to a measly five-of-32 clip from beyond the arc after averaging 13 treys in the latter’s sock two-game Final Four upset over the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates.

Mapua will try to do the same in Game 2.

Apart from its rock solid defense, it would also need another stellar effort from Clint Escamis, who unloaded an 18-point effort that he laced with a three-pointer and a pair of foul shots that helped seal the Game One deal.

Escamis should also come into the duel motivated especially since he will receive his Rookie and MVP trophies for a season-long magnificence.

The feat makes Escamis the first Mapua player to claim both plums since Nigerian Allwell Oraeme achieved such accomplishments eight years ago.

Escamis stressed it won’t matter if they don’t win what they ultimately strived for – the championship.

San Beda, for its part, is bent on bouncing back big and send the series to a no-tomorrow Game 2 next Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Lions are seeking their first crown since reigning supreme five years ago.

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