Shohei Ohtani gets booed by Toronto fans, then smacks a homer to spark Dodgers' win

TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA - APRIL 26: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The boos rained down before Shohei Ohtani’s name even was announced.

They only got louder as he trotted around the bases.

Back in December, Blue Jays fans thought they were about to win Ohtani’s free-agent sweepstakes — teased by online reports that the two-way star was flying to Toronto and likely to sign with the Canadian club.

Instead, the social media rumors ultimately were debunked. The internet sleuths tracking his supposed private jet turned out to be wrong. And a day after his infamous fake flight to Toronto, he announced he was signing with the Dodgers on a record-breaking $700-million deal.

Five months later, the frustration in Toronto still hasn’t dissipated.

In Ohtani’s first trip back to Rogers Centre, he was welcomed Friday by boos. Then, with his first swing, he responded with a towering home run to spark the Dodgers to a 12-2 win.

“He’s shown he’s compartmentalizes really well,” manager Dave Roberts said. “So he heard it, and then once he gets in the box he goes out there and takes his at-bats.”

Of Ohtani's five at-bats, none was more dramatic than his first-inning bomb off Chris Bassitt. With more than 39,000 fans heckling him in the box, Ohtani turned on a 1-and-1 slider, hammering his seventh home run to tie Roberts’ club record for most by a Japanese-born player.

“Shohei is having a good time,” Roberts said. “He’s enjoying the game. He’s enjoying his teammates, and he’s performing really well.”

Friday presented the kind of scene the Dodgers thought Ohtani would avoid in his first trip back to Toronto. Ohtani hadn’t been responsible for the inaccurate reports of the flight, Roberts noted before the game, and teammate Freddie Freeman said earlier in the week that Ohtani “didn’t do anything.”

“It’s not his fault,” Freeman said, “that the media was wrong.”

Still, given the Blue Jays' underwhelming offseason and sluggish start to this season — they entered Friday with the eighth-fewest runs in the majors, leaving Ohtani’s choice to pick the Dodgers over Toronto looming large — the slugger was a vehicle for them to vent their frustrations.

Never before in Ohtani’s seven-year major league career had a crowd treated him with so much hostility.

“I was surprised,” Roberts said.

“It kind of caught me off guard,” catcher Will Smith added.

What the Dodgers witnessed in his first at-bat, however, shocked no one.

“After he homered, the guys in the dugout booed him as well,” Roberts recounted with a laugh. “So that was pretty funny. He got a big kick out of that. But I don’t think it’s a motivator.”

Ohtani said he wasn’t surprised by the boos and praised the Blue Jays' faithful as a “passionate” bunch.

“When they are [passionate], that's the kind of reception that they will probably do,” Ohtani said through his interpreter, Will Ireton. “I'm just very grateful for the teams that approached me and wanted to sign me. As I said in my press conference before, ultimately I could only choose one team."

Friday’s game made the Dodgers seem like the right choice.

After Ohtani’s opening blast, they piled on six runs in the third, including three on Max Muncy’s fifth homer. They added four more over the next three innings, bolstered by a second consecutive four-hit game from Smith and two-hit performances from Teoscar Hernández, Andy Pages and Gavin Lux. Up 11-1, they cruised the rest of the way, getting seven strong innings from rookie right-hander Gavin Stone.

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“Whether it’s that we’re scoring more runs to allow our guys to go longer, or we’re getting good pitching which is allowing us to sit back and score some runs, I don’t know,” Roberts said, contrasting the current five-game winning streak — which includes three outburst of 10 or more runs — with the struggles on a 3-6 homestand last week. “But we talked about not playing a complete game about a week ago. And you look at this last week, we’ve played a handful of complete baseball games.”

Friday, Ohtani helped fuel the rout as much as anyone, responding to the boos with a thunderous swing to provide the club with an immediate spark.

“It couldn’t have worked out any better for a Dodger fan, to be received by a bunch of boos and then homer in your first at-bat,” Roberts said. “With Shohei, anything is on the table as far as spectacular things.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.