The Red Sox weren't on Shohei Ohtani's final list of MLB teams he was considering this past winter (the Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Cubs, Mariners, Rangers and Padres were his finalists), but five years earlier, when he came out of high school in Japan, they nearly signed the two-way phenom who'll they face tonight on the mound in Anaheim.
It's a much-anticipated matchup with both teams off to fast starts.
I wanna see if this kid Ohtani is really thaaat good tonite against MY boys....— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) April 17, 2018
According to WEEI's Rob Bradford, back in 2012 the organization even had Red Sox, Bruins, Celtics and Patriots jerseys made up with Ohtani's name and his high school number 11 on the back as part of their recruiting pitch.
"He's got the highest grade I've ever given a pitcher." - Eddie Romero on Shohei Ohtani https://t.co/6aXIx2XKHf— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) April 17, 2018
"After that meeting, we thought we had a good chance to sign him," Eddie Romero Jr., now the Sox assistant general manager, who at the time was the team's director of international scouting, told Bradford.
Jon Deeble, who was then the Sox chief Pacific Rim scout and now works for the Dodgers, said it came down to Boston and the Dodgers among MLB teams before Ohtani was convinced to stay in Japan with Yomiuri Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.
"I think from what I understand it would've come down to the Red Sox and the Dodgers," Deeble told Bradford. "At that point, the Dodgers had a very good relationship with him also through someone who was working for them at the time. The Red Sox were definitely one or two to be able to get him, for sure."
The Red Sox were interested in a second chance at Ohtani in the offseason before he narrowed his list down. The Boston Globe's Alex Speier details the team's recruiting pitch this past winter, complete with a video referencing Babe Ruth among other Boston legends. With his hitting (.367, three homers, 11 RBI) and pitching (2-0, 2.08 ERA) display in the first few weeks of the season, the Sox' faith in him coming out of high school, even after their mixed results with another Japanese phenom - Daisuke Matsuzaka - now seems justified.