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Nippon Ham Fighters: Shohei Otani decides to begin career in Japan [UPDATED @ 10:29pm JST]

by on Dec.09, 2012 @ 6:15 pm, under NPB

[If you are looking for more Otani information, be sure to check the Shohei Otani tag]

Shohei Otani's press conference began at 6:00pm.  He has announced his decision to begin his career in Japan.  Source: Daily Sports 12/9/2012, Sponichi 12/9/2012Nikkan Sports 12/9/2012

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UPDATE @ 10:07pm - Updates...

Sanspo

Otani quotes...

"I informed the Nippon Ham Fighters that I wanted to sign with them.  I want to give back to the people that helped me up until this day and to the people from my home town by having them see me pitch in Japan.  I will do my best to become the type of player that kids can look up to.  I will do my best to become a member of the Fighters."

"I want to do my best so that I can put up results in my first year.  I initially felt it would be best to head to the US as soon as possible in order to have a long career [in the US].  My feelings changed little by little, but I ultimately talked it over with my family before making a decision."

Kuriyama quotes...

"More than a feeling of happiness, I feel a heavier sense of responsibility.  I want the team to come together to do their best for all the people we inconvenienced.  I think this job has gotten scarier since the time I first accepted the managerial position last year.

Source: Sanspo 12/9/2012

Senichi Hoshino (Rakuten) was not too happy about Otani changing his mind, because it meant they had no competition on draft day.  Source: Sanspo 12/9/2012

Fighters' GM Masao Yamada, scouting director Takashi Ofuchi, and Hideki Kuriyama will visit Hanamaki High School on the Monday.  Source: Sanspo 12/9/2012

Sports Hochi

Kuriyama gave Otani a black t-shirt during their first meeting on November 26 that had the phrase "Dreams come true."  The t-shirt also apparently had images of birds which were supposed to symbolize Otani spreading his wings to fly around the world.

The t-shirt was designed during the Nippon Series and completed in time for their meeting.

Source: Sports Hochi 12/9/2012

Daily Sports

Hanshin Tigers' 1st round draft pick Shintaro Fujinami's comment:

"I am sure he had difficulty deciding, but I think it is good he was able to make his decision.  I wish to do my best so that we can face each other on the Ichi-gun stage as soon as possible."

Source: Daily Sports 12/9/2012

Nikkan Sports posted the following timeline:

10/21 - Otani holds a press conference and announces that he wanted to play in the US.

10/23 - Kuriyama tells reporters that the team plans to select Otani with their first pick.

10/25 - The Nippon Ham Fighters select Otani.  Otani speaks to reporters and says there is zero chance he will sign.

10/26 - The Fighters visit Hanamaki Higashi.  Otani does not attend the meeting.

11/2 - The Fighters visit Otani's home.  They meet Otani for the first time.  They present him with a baseball that contains a message from Kuriyama.  Otani talks about becoming a pioneer.

11/10 - Fighters meet Otani's parents at a hotel in Hanamaki.  Otani is not present.  The Fighters prepare a presentation about the risks of heading overseas at a young age.

11/17 - The Fighters meet Otani and his parents at a hotel in Oshu.  They tell Otani of their plan to let him begin as a pitcher/hitter.  Otani's father tells reporters after the meeting that he feels the Fighters are no longer an absolute no.

11/21 - The Fighters announce that Kuriyama will attend their meeting with Otani on the 26th.  This will be the first time Kuriyama meets Otani in person.

11/26 - The Fighters and Kuriyama meet Otani in Oshu for the first time.  Otani speaks to the media and mentions how he was told he can get to the Majors via the NPB.

12/3 - The Fighters and Kuriyama meet Otani in Oshu for the second time.  They tell him they want to give him the number eleven.  Otani talks about how the Fighters addressed his concerns.  He also says that he plans to inform the team of his decision some time during the week because he does not want to inconvenience people around him.

12/7 - The Fighters announce they will hold a press conference at a hotel in Oshu on the 9th for Otani.  They also mention that Kuriyama will be present.

12/9 - Otani announces his decision to sign with the Fighters.

Source: Nikkan Sports 12/9/2012

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UPDATE @ 10:28pm -

Nikkan Sports

Kuriyama quote:

"We fell in love with Otani and decided to draft him.  We inconvenienced the people around him and school officials.  I will go all out for his future.  If he can give back [to everyone] by doing well.  More than feeling happy, I am feeling how big the responsibility is.  I would like people in Hokkaido and Iwate to cheer for him."

Source: Nikkan Sports 12/9/2012

Sanspo

Sanspo has posted portions of his press conference:

What are you thoughts right now?

I feel badly that negotiations lasted so long.  I would like to do my best to become a member of the Fighters.

What my you decision difficult?

I thought I could perform as a top player in the US for a long time the sooner I went.  When I first decided, I did not have the option to begin as a hitter and pitcher.

Which would you like to be, a pitcher or hitter?

I want to be a pitcher, but I am not entirely sure.  I do feel like trying out both.

What did Kuriyama tell you?

He said he wanted me to walk down a path no one else had.  I also want to do my best to become a player that can do that.

Your goals?

I could not win a championship in high school.  As a player, I have not been able to leave my mark on a national level.  I would like to win a championship with the Fighters.

Your thoughts about the Majors?

I ultimately would like to go.  It is a place I dream about.

Anything you would like to say to Fujinami?

Right now, I am losing to him.  I want to do my best to grow/develop and overtake him and one day face him.

Source: Sanspo 12/9/2012

21 comments on “Nippon Ham Fighters: Shohei Otani decides to begin career in Japan [UPDATED @ 10:29pm JST]

  1. fighting ham

    Because Ham picked Sugano last year, it’s unlikely that they planned this behind the scene. I think Rakuten has more territorial claim on Iwate prefecture. Although there is no such territorial consideration given in drft, had Shohei not spoken up, I believe Rakuten would have picked him. Whatever fairness there currently is in draft, Shohei’s case made it wide open for exploitation.

    Reply
  2. Arthur

    Amazing piece of work by the Fighters, you have to give them that. I’m not sure the draft is all that fair as it is anyway, I don’t think other teams have much to complain about. The Fighters took a huge risk again, but this time it paid off. Fair play to them.

    Reply
  3. PX

    obviously someone missing a finger or two “talked” to Otani and his family. THere was no way Otani would have ever gone to MLB. The burden his father would have felt would have been too great, as well as threats to his livelihood.

    Reply
    1. Steve Novosel

      Oh, come on. That is completely ridiculous. This is Japan 2012, not 1952.

      He made the choice because it’s the best choice for him and his family. And it IS the best choice.

      Reply
  4. PX

    Don’t underestimate Japanese society. I have lived here long enough to know this kind of stuff happens all the time still. Family honor is above anything else, and you have to stuff your goals and desire often. Pressure from his town and the people on the family, family will get shunned and banned..all of this will have made his dad tell Otani, basically sign with Fighters or else.

    In any case, he will be overused, his arm will be shot, he will have Tommy John once he comes to the MLB. If he started off with the MLB, he could always have gone to the NPB, it is harder the other way around.

    Reply
    1. Steve Novosel

      No, the Yakuza does not threaten Otani’s family to make him sign with the Fighters. That does NOT happen in 2012 Japan, period. It simply doesn’t. If you really think that you need to open your eyes more.

      His family would most certainly not get shunned or banned from anything should he sign with an MLB club. Most certainly the opposite. I don’t know where you get this perception but it is completely off base.

      “In any case, he will be overused, his arm will be shot, he will have Tommy John once he comes to the MLB.”

      If you have this much of a negative view of NPB and its teams, WHY are you reading let along posting on Yakyu Baka? This is a site for Japanese baseball. If you don’t LIKE Japanese baseball perhaps you should hang out at MLB Baka? Of course it’s your choice to read what you want but I don’t know why you would waste your time reading news about people and leagues you clearly hate.

      Reply
  5. PX

    OK dad, what else should I do? You and your scientific and very convincing “It simply doesn’t.” LOL!

    I will stay on this site because Gen puts up good reports, and I am actually interested in NPB. To read this site doesn’t require a person to be a NPB groupie like you, I am sorry to say.

    Reply
    1. Steve Novosel

      So how does your “I have lived here long enough to know this kind of stuff happens all the time still” make any sense? There are laws against Yakuza intimidation and in 2012 these laws are actually enforced. Even if they weren’t, exactly what would the Yakuza care about a high school player going to the US or to Sapporo? The whole idea is ridiculous.

      You say you are actually interested in the NPB yet you don’t like how they treat their players, nor how people treat the family of players, and you think players should run off to MLB at the earliest opportunity, and any player that doesn’t must have been intimidated by gangsters?

      Strange way to be interested in NPB.

      And of course I am an NPB groupie, what’s your point? Was that supposed to be an insult? I greatly prefer NPB over MLB.

      Reply
  6. Christopher

    Gentlemen, Gentlemen….
    Whilst there may not have been yakuza pressure (very unlikely) there was a lot of pressure applied to the family and to Otani to prevent this from happening. A move to MLB would have been a serious threat to the indentured labour system NPB operates and so would have had to have been prevented. However, others would have been pressuring the family and whilst the threats would not have been articulated they would have been there. In the backward world of NPB it still works that way.

    Reply
    1. Steve Novosel

      Now that I can agree with.

      Definitely NPB needs a more modern form of player contract. It’s unfair to the player that they are held to their team for so long. Some teams are pretty good about following player wishes to be be posted early and others aren’t (though the posting system also is shit).

      NPB definitely needs to keep guys like Otani in Japan, though. I think it’s ultimately best for all involved if he stays a few years, especially for Otani.

      Reply
  7. Kyle

    I think this is good for Japanese Baseball. It is important to grow baseball both in popularity and quality in international markets.

    Reply
  8. Gen Post author

    Wow, ok, I knew this was a topic of interest, but…

    I can’t really comment specifically on Yakuza interest or whether or not they played a role, but regarding this:

    “In any case, he will be overused, his arm will be shot, he will have Tommy John once he comes to the MLB.”

    The one thing the Fighters have going for them right now is Yu Darvish. If he suddenly breaks down or his arm falls off, then they’ll lose whatever credibility they have. But so long as he pitches well in the States and has a somewhat long career, he will be the perfect reason why players should begin their careers in Japan instead of the States.

    Also, what’s the guarantee he doesn’t blow out his arm in the States? I mean, it isn’t like MLB players never blow out their arms.

    I suppose you could argue that he threw too much in high school. But then does that mean MLB teams will start scouting junior high school players? Or elementary school players? Or maybe it’ll just be easier to set up a system of schools over here that make sure young players don’t throw too much. Because honestly, I think the mentality Japanese pitchers have to throw a lot develops at a much younger age. If you really want to see mileage on arms drop for pitchers, you’ll have to look toward even younger players.

    Reply
    1. Steve Novosel

      Look at Stephen Strasburg for the perfect MLB example. They absolutely babied his arm and he still ended up getting Tommy John surgery. It’s such a crapshoot.

      Look at NPB pitchers like Kimiyasu Kudoh who pitched until he was 47 or Masa Yamamoto who’s still going at 47. There’s all sorts of examples and counter-examples for any way of treating a pitcher’s arm.

      I doubt there has been a trans-Pacific study showing correlation between pitcher use and frequency of injury. I doubt it would be possible to find any statistically meaningful correlations due to the totally different youth training methods in the US and Japan and the different ways that NPB pitchers and MLB pitchers approach batters. That is, NPB pitchers waste more pitches with nibbling when ahead in a count and MLB pitching style is more direct, more attacking of the batter, fewer wasted pitches. I think this accounts for some of the difference in MLB vs NPB pitch counts.

      We shouldn’t forget that Otani wants the chance to develop as both a pitcher and a position player, which is a chance he is very unlikely to have in MLB.

      Reply
    2. Azza

      I think some players physically can withstand more stress on their bodies and some can’t

      At the end of the day, you will have players on both sides of the Pacific burning out their arms and some players who seem to be able to take a big workload without much injury

      Reply
  9. Azza

    I just remembered, Keishi Suzuki for example threw a large number of pitches in the bullpen every day and was called into to relieve on days he didn’t start and he had a long career and a very successful one

    Then you had someone like Inao whose career was cut short because of overusage

    So my point is, not everyone is the same

    Reply
  10. PX

    so I have to like everything the NPB does in order for me to be interested in it? that makes no sense at all.

    anyways for you as an obvious gaijin, I wouldn’t be so adamant about saying that yakuza laws are enforced in 2012 . I doubt you really understand what really goes on seeing how you didn’t grow up here like I did

    Reply
    1. Steve Novosel

      You don’t seem to like ANYTHING about the NPB – not the teams, not the people who cheer for the teams, and you want the best players to leave.

      “obvious gaijin” – Look, Mr. PX – you don’t know me, and you are hiding behind your little anonymity. If you have grown up in Japan, which I doubt unless you are still a teenager, you should know that many people don’t like being called gaijin. Foreigners who call other foreigners gaijin are usually those who are fresh off the boat, really young, or don’t actually live in Japan. I’m voting on you just being really young, and thinking you know what you’re talking about.

      Reply
  11. Carter

    How many japanese pitchers make great careers without being overused or being injured because of malpractices ? A lot. Most of the MLB fans I hear about this issue act like Otani was their thing and he should not be pitching in Japan because he wouldn’t be fresh anymore. How patronizing. His career here will totally worth the one he’ll have in America if he eventually goes.

    Btw Tommy Johns and overuses also happen in the MLB.

    Reply
  12. PX

    @Steve Novosel, you can check my IP address, I will assure you that I am in Japan.

    Anyways, seeing how emotional and dramatic you are, I will let you have your say. Don’t be so naive to understand Japanese society and the pressures that people face to conform. Yes I said yakuza may have had an influence but if you read my other comments, I also said pressure from the town and other people–so not just that. I will guarantee you that someone talked and pressured his family to making him stay, poor kid had no choice.

    That is the last you will hear from this teenage boy in Hiroo living off of his daddy with an expat package and attending ASIJ, although there are much fewer of us now.

    Reply
    1. Steve Novosel

      PX, I am not trying to chase you away from here (and yeah, I am a drama queen, esp on the internet) – I want to see MORE NPB discussion, not less. But I hate seeing off-base speculation about Yakuza and wishing that the best talents leave Japan, too. I would hope we NPB fans wish that the best talent stays, and the league gets better and better. Perhaps it’s just me.

      So sorry for being so dramatic :)

      Reply
  13. Felix Quiros

    Look at panamanian Davis Romero. He pitched in 2006 for the Toronto Blue Jays. He beat the Yankees for his only win in MLB. He never lost. He had a season ending surgery in March 2007 and he had never reached MLB again. He’s 29 years old and he’s done. So you would never know.
    NPB has to keep Japan’s best talent. Nihon fans deserves it.

    Reply

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