Fans are already dreaming of Lars Nootbaar recruiting Shohei Ohtani as their friendship begins during World Baseball Classic prep
The St. Louis Cardinals have had a lot of their players depart from Spring Training the last few days to join their respective national teams for the World Baseball Classic, which will begin pool play here in the near future. One name that Cardinals' fans have been eager to see in action is Lars Nootbaar, who after an offseason full of hype, now finds himself as a key piece of the Japan lineup.
It appears that Nootbaar is making some friends too. Most notably, Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani.
If you were on Twitter at all over the last 48 hours, you would have seen images of Nootbaar and Ohtani sitting together in the dugout - laughing, chatting and even breaking down some of Ohtani's pitch grips. What really drove fans bonkers was when Ohtani hit his mammoth home run to center field, and appeared to "grind the pepper" as he rounded third base, a trademark celebration that Nootbaar started with the Cardinals last season. Michael Clair of MLB.com captured Nootbaar's thoughts on that.
""We wanted that we wanted a little hit celebration, something to go," Nootbaar said. "We didn't really know what to come up with. And so he said, whatever I go out there and do first that's what we're gonna roll with. So, I went out [and got a hit] in the first inning, we got the pepper grinder out there. And you know, we kind of stuck with it.""- Lars Nootbaar, via MLB.com
Could Lars Nootbaar actually recruit Shohei Ohtani to St. Louis?
While I think most fans can agree that the chances of Shohei Ohtani ending up in a Cardinals' uniform are slim to none, it is interesting to consider the power of relationships in today's game. If you look over at the NBA, any time players get together to play for their national teams, it feels like seeds are planted for future team-ups professionally. While MLB has not seen a lot of that over the years, it's fair to wonder if this generation of baseball players will be any different.
If Ohtani catches even a whiff of Nootbaar's excitement to be a Cardinal, as well as former teammate Albert Pujols's pure joy to come back to St. Louis, it may give the two-way superstar reason to pause and wonder if St. Louis would be a long-term destination for him. The Cardinals are not a coastal team though, and the likelihood they'd spend that kind come money seems like a major stretch, but we also have many months to see how things play out.
Although I would still give it a less than 5% chance of happening, I do think there are interesting factors about Ohtani that may pique the Cardinals' interest more than other free agents would. If Ohtani were genuinely interested in playing in St. Louis, he would open up an entire market in Japan, alongside Nootbaar, for the club to tap into and potentially gain incredible revenue streams. Yes, his contract would be record-breaking, either in terms of annual value or total dollars, but they'd also be getting two superstars, one on the mound and one at the plate.
Do I think this would happen? Right now, no. And I highly doubt changing that view any time soon. But crazier things have happened in the game of baseball, so it's nice to hope and dream that Nootbaar could spark an Ohtani to St. Louis reality. But for now, it's nothing more than a dream.