The clock continues to tick, but Blue Jays fans are hoping its hands are counting down to "Shotime" in Toronto.
The Toronto Blue Jays are believed to be one of the most likely teams to land all-star baseball player Shohei Ohtani. The Japanese two-way player and 2023 American League MVP is currently a free agent after his contract with the Los Angeles Angels expired at the end of this season.
Ohtani has attracted strong interest from other MLB teams, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs. But the Blue Jays have emerged as a serious contender for the 29-year-old's signature after their front office reportedly met with him on Monday.
No confirmation of Ohtani's intentions have emerged just yet. But with a private plane coming from Anaheim, Calif., scheduled to land in Toronto's Pearson Airport on Friday, some fans hope that the Japanese all-star is moving north of the border.
Why is there so much hype around this baseball player?
On the field, Ohtani is one of the best baseball players in the world — and he's coming off of an MVP-calibre season with the Los Angeles Angels.
Ohtani hit 44 home runs in 135 regular season appearances in 2023, securing the American League's home run title — the first Japanese player to lead a U.S. major league in home runs. He also registered a batting average above .300.
Those 44 home runs were just 10 shy of MLB leader Matt Olson, who played 27 more games than Ohtani.
But Ohtani isn't just known for his performance at the plate. He is one of a rare breed of elite two-way players — those who are just as good at throwing a baseball as they are at hitting it.
In 2023, Ohtani struck out 167 batters in 132 innings of play, according to mlb.com. One of his most notable strikeouts came on May 10, when he passed the legendary Babe Ruth on the all-time strikeout list with his 502nd of his career. Ohtani is currently the leader for most strikeouts thrown by a player with more than 100 home runs, with 608 in his regular season career.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime player," Julia Kreutz, a reporter with MLB.com, told CBC News's Jenna Benchetrit. "I don't think we have ever seen anyone like Shohei Ohtani."
How does he benefit the Blue Jays off the diamond?
Ohtani is a magnet for Japanese audiences. About 50 Japanese media members were credentialed to cover Ohtani full-time during his six seasons with the Angels.
Furthermore, Japanese broadcaster NHK aired every Angels game during the 2023 season — until Ohtani suffered a season-ending elbow injury in September. His move can bring even more international eyes to the MLB's only non-American team.
On the business side of things, Ohtani's move could sell more Jays tickets for games at the Rogers Centre — and for Rogers Communications, the company that owns the team, that could mean more merchandise and food sales.
"There's more interest, there's more viewership, you sell more hot dogs, there's more attendance, there's more brand awareness, there's more content to put online," Brian Cooper, chair of sports and entertainment marketing agency MKTG Canada, told CBC News's Peter Armstrong.
"And as a result, you get more sponsors that say, 'I want to be a part of this."
Rogers could also use Ohtani's fame to boost every business line in the company, according to sports media analyst Adam Seaborn.
"You would see Ohtani in cable and wireless ads for Rogers' core business. And even if you don't, he's playing down at the Rogers Centre on Rogers Sportsnet. On the Rogers Radio Network," he told Armstrong.