Shohei Ohtani free agency: Blue Jays fans track private plane as buzz builds

Shohei Ohtani watch in Toronto has kicked into another gear.

We still don’t know which team the Japanese superstar will sign with or even when a decision is coming.

But that hasn’t stopped Blue Jays fans from taking to social media to speculate about a potential resolution to one of the most hyped free agencies in baseball history, with multiple media reports now suggesting that the club is a finalist to sign the two-way star and reigning American League MVP.

On Friday morning, one X (formally Twitter) user pointed to flight logs showing a private jet that was scheduled to fly from Anaheim, the city where Ohtani has spent his entire MLB career with the Angels, to Toronto.

That flight is scheduled to land in Toronto just after 4:30 p.m. and it remains unclear whether it is in any way connected to Ohtani.

However, as of 2:30 p.m., more than 3,000 people were tracking its progress via FlightRadar24, making it the most-watched plane in the world at the time.

Meanwhile, other fans took to social media on Friday to discuss what signing Ohtani might mean to the Blue Jays and their World Series chances. 

Others shared gambling odds which have the Blue Jays among the favourites to sign Ohtani, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In an interview with CTV News Toronto on Friday afternoon, Toronto Metropolitan University Sports Marketing Professor Cheri Bradish said that whoever ends up with Ohtani will have some really unique opportunities given his global following.

“Given his significance, he’d have a really powerful impact in the community where he plays, allowing that team to really speak to some unique demographics,” Bradish said.

“Look at [Lionel] Messi going to Inter Miami, Kawhi (Leonard) to Toronto. In terms of the celebrity factor and bringing in awareness both locally and globally [..] the value of those teams just grew.”

Ohtani is expected to command a contract of in excess of $500 million (U.S.), according to several media reports.

It would be the biggest contract in baseball history, surpassing the $426.5 million, 12-year deal signed by his Angels teammate Mike Trout.

But Bradish said that there will be a “real economic impact of bringing in a franchise player with a global appeal” like Ohtani.

“The economics of sport is really dictated by the market,” she said.

There is still no known timeline for when Ohtani’s decision will be announced. Members of the Blue Jays front office have previously refused to even say whether they have met with Ohtani, though Manager John Schneider told TSN earlier this week that tit was exciting for the Jays to be “in the mix for it.”

“There are a lot of different ways to make our team better and he’s obviously a great player,” he said.

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