At the hospital, Ohtani took 1-year-old Shohei in his arms and told the boy, “I hope you will always keep fighting,” according to the Japan Times.
Shohei Kawasaki, born in June 2017, has dilated cardiomyopathy, which causes shortness of breath and problems with the heart muscle. Ultimately he will need a heart transplant to alleviate the issue.
A group trying to raise money for the surgery posted a photo of Ohtani and his namesake on Instagram.
Ohtani met with the boy and his parents for about an hour in Osaka Prefecture on Saturday, and gave Taishi Kawasaki and his wife, Shizuha, gifts, including an autographed ball that read, “To Shohei.”
The parents, both great fans of the two-way phenom, had reached out to Ohtani through the newspaper in Hokkaido, where his former team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, was based. The parents enlisted Ohtani’s support in their fundraising efforts.
“It’s my honor that his name was taken from me,” Ohtani said. “Due to such a connection, I want to offer a help by all means.”
Ohtani, who was named the American League Rookie of the Year for 2018, is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right pitching elbow. The surgery will keep Ohtani off the mound until 2020, but he is hoping to get some playing time in as a designated hitter for the Angels.
Ohtani finished his first season in Major League Baseball with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts over 10 starts as a pitcher. He batted .285 with 22 home runs and 61 RBIs in 104 games as a DH. He had a .564 slugging percentage that ranked seventh in the majors.