The media learned today that 1st round draft pick Tomoyuki Sugano decided to turn the Nippon Ham Fighters down and called them earlier this morning to inform them of his decision. Sugano is expected to take the year off and re-enter the draft next year.
UPDATE 11/22 @ 3:06am - Nikkan Sports has posted comments taken from Sugano during the press conference he held later in the day on Monday:
When did you decide?
I made the final decision yesterday. I spoke a lot with my family and with my manager and had a really tough time deciding and it all came together yesterday. That is when I spoke to my manager.
Why did you decide not to join [the Fighters]?
After meeting the Nippon Ham Fighters speak, I felt honored [to have been selected]. But, the dream from my youth was stronger than that. I might end up going in circles, but I want to work hard toward fulfilling my dreams. I do not think it will be a wasted year. I think there are more positives than negatives.
Would things have been different if Nippon Ham informed you that they were going to select you?
That I cannot say.
You might have to worry about the same thing next year?
I am not thinking about that right now.
Taking the year off, especially for pitchers, can be difficult.
Yes. I of course do not think that this will be easy. I think it will be a difficult road ahead. If I can overcome that and grow then I can approach next year's draft a better player.
Once again, what are your current thoughts?
I made my decision and I feel refreshed.
Are you thinking about practicing overseas?
I am thinking about using this year to try out a number of things, including how I train.
Did you ever feel like joining the Nippon Ham Fighters?
After meeting with Nippon Ham, I did feel honored that they felt so highly of me.
Did you consider the Industrial league?
That was an option, but it would mean two years. All kinds of people, including from the university, will help me and I think taking the year off is the best decision for me. I also see it as a year I can do things freely. If I feel like training, I can do that. But it is also a year things can go bad if I do not do things properly. I want to stand strong and see this through.
And despite getting turned down, the Fighters are not ready to give up on Sugano. Fighters' rep Toshimasa Shimada told reporters that if they were going to give up so easily, they never would have drafted him in the first place. GM Masao Yamada provided the following statement to the media via the team:
This morning, we did receive word from Tokai University manager Hitoki Yokoi that there was going to be a press conference, but we have not spoken directly to Tomoyuki Sugano. At our last meeting, Sugano said he was going to use all of November to think about his decision so we do not consider this his official reply to us. We do not think negotiations will be easy, but as a team we felt strong when selecting him. According to the rules, we have negotiating rights with him until March 2012 and until he makes his decision final, we will continue to work hard in our negotiations with him.
Nikkan Sports also notes that there have been 25 first round draft picks that have turned down their teams over the years. The last player was Tetsuya Utsumi when he turned down Orix in 2000. Only two players have turned down the Fighters over their history: Shinji Kuroda in 1976 and Ikuo Takayama in 1980. Suguru Egawa turned down two teams as a first round draft pick: the Hankyu Braves in 1973 (out of high school) and the Crown Lighter Lions in 1977 (out of college). Two players have taken the year off after turning down a team as a first round draft pick: Egawa in 1977 and Daisuke Motoki in 1989. Egawa was drafted the Hanshin Tigers in 1978 and then immediately traded to the Yomiuri Giants; and Motoki was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 1990 draft.