In a ground-breaking fusion of sports and tea, baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani has stepped up to the plate to debut in a whole new league – Australian supermarket shelves.

The Japanese star, who signed the largest contract in professional sports history last year – a 10-year, US$700 million contract with the LA Dodgers – has officially thrown his weight behind his favourite refreshment, Oi Ocha, signing an ambassador contract with the beloved green tea brand in a world first.

Oi Ocha is the flagship green tea brand of the iconic Japanese company Ito En. It has clocked more than 43 billion cumulative bottle sales worldwide since its launch in 1989 and accrued a slew of high-profile fans, with celebs such as Hailey Bieber and Alessandra Ambrosio snapped sipping on it. Oi Ocha has been reformulated using 100% Australian green tea since 2018. In 2019, building began on refining and tea-bagging facilities in Wangaratta, Victoria – marking Ito En's first vertically integrated production line outside of Japan. Since then, millions of bottles of Oi Ocha have been sold across Australia's Woolworths and Coles as well as independent grocers and stores, becoming one of the country's preferred green tea brews. In the 5-year period ending April 2023, Oi Ocha sales saw a 210 per cent increase in Australia.

In announcing the ground-breaking partnership with Ohtani, Ito En is releasing an open letter of support to the pitcher and the designated hitter for the Dodgers in more than 60 newspapers worldwide, including in Australia.

Nicknamed ‘Sho-time' by his fans and teammates, the baseball superstar – widely considered one of the world's most prolific players – has made headline news outside of the pitch, recently marrying former Japanese basketball player Mamiko Tanaka. The identity of his new bride was released only weeks ago.

WATCH: Every Shohei Ohtani home run of the 2024 MLB season

In lifting the lid on the green tea brew breaking news, Ohtani said he was delighted to announce the global partnership with Oi Ocha. “I have been a big fan of Oi Ocha since my time in Japan and it has remained an important companion to me even in my life in America. I was thrilled to hear that my love for Oi Ocha and my frequent consumption of it resonated with Ito En, which led to this opportunity. As a devoted fan of Oi Ocha, I am excited about the prospect of sharing its charm with people all over the world.”

For Oi Ocha, the remarkable partnership makes quite the pivot after the brand made slightly eyebrow-raising headlines for using an AI actress as the star of its commercials last year. Ohtani, in comparison, is one of Japan's most beloved sport stars and has an Instagram following of almost 8 million.

Baseball has grown in popularity in Australia, particularly off the back of the success of former Chicago White Sox star Liam Hendriks, from Perth, who was considered one of the best closers in baseball. Hendriks is one of more than 30 Australians who have made it to the big leagues over the years and, just last year, ‘Team Australia' made history at the Asia Professional Baseball Championship at Tokyo Dome.

The connection between a love of tea and emerging love of baseball in Australia isn't lost on Ito En, with the Ohtani and Oi Ocha partnership tipped to bring more awareness to both the sport and drink, which is lauded for its high-quality homegrown green tea leaves and health benefits found from green tea specifically. Oi Ocha's unsweetened beverages are now sold in over 40 countries.

Ito En President and Representative Director, Daisuke Honjo, said he was thrilled to announce the global partnership with Ohtani under its Oi Ocha brand.

“Mr Ohtani has been enjoying Oi Ocha on various occasions, from his time in Japan to his current life in Los Angeles. No matter the time of day, no matter how far apart, we're here for you, Ohtani-san. Always”