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When Shohei Ohtani’s Contract Drama Took a Turn: The Story of Flight N616RH

On Friday morning, Robert Herjavec was tracking to be on time for a 9 a.m. flight out of John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, Calif., until his 5-year-old twins, Hudson and Haven, announced in the car that they were hungry.

Herjavec, a Canadian businessman and star of “Shark Tank” and “Dragons’ Den,” was traveling solo with the twins. Not wanting to start a four-and-a-half-hour flight on the wrong foot, Herjavec stopped for breakfast and texted the pilot that they’d be late. “That’s the beauty of having your own plane,” Herjavec said by phone Monday. “You show up whenever you want to go.”

Herjavec didn’t know at the time that the 40-minute delay had just added fuel to a rumor spreading rapidly since the previous night, when an X user posted that a private jet, tail number N616RH, was scheduled to fly from Santa Ana to Toronto in the morning.

Amateur internet sleuths connected dots — like flight trackers showing the jet had been in Oakland when Ohtani met with the Giants in San Francisco; that Ohtani had signed on that day, Dec. 8, in his first free agency; and that he’d flown on a Bombardier Global 5000 before — and determined that Shohei Ohtani, baseball unicorn, was flying private to Toronto to sign with the Blue Jays.

Even before N616RH left the hangar in Santa Ana Friday morning, Ohtani speculation was flying at hyper speed. Baseball insider Jon Paul Morosi had reported a decision was “imminent.” In Toronto, former NHLer Carlo Colaiacovo, now a morning radio host with TSN 1050, read on air a message from the show’s text line saying Blue Jays pitcher Yusei Kikuchi had made a Friday night reservation for 50 people at a sushi restaurant near Rogers Centre.


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