Yankees’ big tent prepared Angels GM for Ohtani circus

No previous experiences could quite prepare a baseball team for the phenomenon that is rookie Shohei Ohtani. Even the man Ohtani is trying to match, Babe Ruth, didn’t try the “Simultaneously excel as a pitcher and hitter” thing until 1919, his sixth year. And it’s hard to find folks still around from the 1919 Red Sox.

If Angels general manager Billy Eppler couldn’t reach into anyone’s personal history to help run this unique experiment, however, he could at least help with another component of Ohtani Mania. Namely, the mania. Life as a Yankees executive gives you a running start for something like this.

“My time with the Yankees and everything that came with that, whether it was the expectations, the big signings, the big trades; whether it was Randy Johnson, CC (Sabathia), (Mark) Teixeira, having Rod (Alex Rodriguez) there the whole time, the World Series year ’09 and everything that kind of comes with that — no doubt, being with a club that always has eyes on them prepares you for your future with another club that has all eyes on them, which we do now,” said Eppler, who worked for the Yankees from 2004 through 2015, climbing from assistant director of baseball operations to assistant GM.

“And of course that training and background, and those experiences that I learned from Cash (Yankees general manager Brian Cashman), that I learned from being in that environment and being with the traveling party so often, yeah, of course that helps prepare.

“The things I learned from (vice president of communications and media relations) Jason Zillo, (director of team travel and player services) Ben Tuliebitz. How we managed our infrastructure, how we managed our travel party, how we managed our processes there. I watched how they managed them. No doubt, it has helped us over here to know what to expect, so to speak.”

Like most high-profile Japanese players, Ohtani has attracted an army of Japanese media, with over 100 covering his starts on the mound and even 50 at road games, as per The Washington Post. That would be a lot for one player, even to the Yankees, who have dealt with smaller yet still substantial media pools covering Masahiro Tanaka and, previously, Hideki Matsui and Hideki Irabu.

So far, if the fury surrounding Ohtani has been a distraction to the Angels players, they have hid it well, as they’ll take a 16-9 record into Angel Stadium on Friday night, when they open their series with the Yankees.

Let’s catch up on recent Pop Quiz questions:

1) From Andy Romanic of Freeport: Name the future Yankees manager who appears in the 1952 movie “The Winning Team.”
2) From Dianne Rosen of Boca Raton, Fla.: In a 2004 episode of “Scrubs,” an EMT named Denise (Molly Shannon) carries her son’s favorite baseball card. Who is the future Hall of Famer on the card?

— What first name accounted for the most homers in 2017? If you answered Giancarlo, you’re … wrong. The correct answer is Jose. Led by the White Sox’s Jose Abreu (33), the Indians’ Jose Ramirez (29) and American League Most Valuable Player Jose Altuve (24) of the Astros, the Joses totaled 170 homers. The Matts finished second with 130. This data was put together by FanDuel to celebrate its new F2P Home Run Challenge, in which contestants select three hitters each day and the best prognosticator each day wins $500.

— New Hall of Famer Jack Morris will be in Manhattan on Thursday, May 17, when he stops by Foley’s from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. to raise money for Crescent Cove, a place of respite for children with cancer and their families. Morris will sign autographs, pose for photos and answer fans’ questions.

— Your Pop Quiz answers:

1) Bob Lemon

2) Ken Griffey Jr.

If you have a tidbit that connects baseball with popular culture, please send it to me at [email protected]

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