HOUSTON -- Shohei Ohtani was presented with the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award less than an hour before the start of the 2021 World Series on Tuesday night, a trophy with few recipients to commemorate a season without equal.
Ohtani wore all black, sat next to Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and received the gold trophy almost reluctantly.
"I'm not really sure if I deserve it," Ohtani said through his interpreter. "But if Mr. Manfred is gonna give it to me, I will accept it."
"He deserves it," Manfred chimed in, smiling. "I'm pretty sure about that!"
The Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award began in 1998, was last presented in 2014 -- to Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter and legendary broadcaster Vin Scully -- and is meant to "recognize accomplishments and contributions of historical significance to the game," according to an MLB release.
Ohtani, 27, became the 16th participant after a historic two-way season in which he batted .257/.372/.592 in 639 plate appearances and posted a 3.18 ERA with 156 strikeouts and 44 walks in 130 1/3 innings. He became the first player to combine 45-plus homers with 25-plus stolen bases and five-plus steals, and he did it while making 23 starts. Fourteen of those starts were made while he held at least a share of the major league lead in home runs.
Ohtani is widely expected to win the American League's Most Valuable Player Award next month and said he feels "pretty confident that I can repeat what I did this year," even though the only other season that came close was done by Babe Ruth in 1919. The thought of presenting him with this award came during the All-Star Game, when Ohtani led off as a hitter and served as the starting pitcher, yet another unprecedented feat.
"We came to the conclusion as a group, really my whole senior management team, that it would be a mistake for us not to do something just to recognize this one season while we had the opportunity to do it," Manfred said.