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Tag: 2012 Draft

Seibu Lions agree to terms with 2nd round draft pick Makoto Aiuchi

by on Mar.10, 2013 @ 3:46 pm, under NPB
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The Seibu Lions announced today that they agreed to terms with 2nd round draft pick Makoto Aiuchi.  His contract is worth an estimated 6.3 million yen and also includes a seventy million yen signing bonus.  He has been assigned the number seventy-one.

Aiuchi almost missed out on his opportunity to play for Seibu when he was caught speeding and driving without a proper license in December last year.  But he accepted his punishment and team officials decided to give him a chance because they felt he paid his dues and learned from his mistake.  The team is also committed to helping Aiuchi grow into a responsible adult.

Source: official announcement, Nikkan Sports 3/10/2013

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UPDATE 3/11 @ 11:30am - Aiuchi had originally agreed to a seven million yen salary, but it was adjusted to 6.3 million, based on the time he missed.  He was also originally assigned the number forty-one, which used to be Hisanobu Watanabe's number.  Koji Akiyama wore the number seventy-one when he first broke into the pros.

Source: Sanspo 3/11/2013

Shohei Otani News and Notes: January 6, 2013

by on Jan.06, 2013 @ 11:10 pm, under NPB
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About thirty members of the media covered 1st round draft pick Shohei Otani's first day of practices at Hanamaki Higashi High School on Saturday.  He worked out for about four hours and threw the ball thirty-six times during a game of catch.

Otani spent the New Year's holiday at his maternal grandparents house in Yokohama.  He returned to his high school on the 2nd and threw about fifty pitches in the bullpen.

Source: Sports Hochi 1/6/2013

Otani will likely begin his pro career at Ni-gun spring camp because Hideki Kuriyama is afraid of rushing him -- he wants to avoid pushing the youngster while he is still growing.  They are also worried about the pressure to perform that could come with starting at Ichi-gun camp.

Source: Nikkan Sports 1/6/2013Sponichi 1/6/2013

Makoto Kaneko and Eiichi Koyano are also slated to start things out at Ni-gun spring camp because they are coming back from injuries.  The two veterans would be able to provide Otani with support and advice.

Source: Sponichi 1/6/2013

Nikkan Sports: Shohei Otani (HAM), Shintaro Fujinami (HAN) interview

by on Jan.02, 2013 @ 10:34 pm, under NPB
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Nikkan Sports has posted an interview with 1st round draft picks Shohei Otani (Nippon Ham) and Shintaro Fujinami (Hanshin).

Otani, Fujinami, there is hope that the two of you will carry Japanese yakyu on your shoulders in the future.  What kind of first dreams did you have?  What do you plan to do in your first years?

Otani: I want to see myself doing well at Ichi-gun.  Both as a pitcher and a hitter.  [Hideki] Kuriyama's words "dreams come true" left a lasting impression...  I got a bit of a late start [because of my decision].  I am working out as I imagine myself performing at Ichi-gun.

Fujinami: I am not the type to really see first dreams, and I have never really had one.  I think it would be nice to have a dream about Mt. Fuji.  [Any of the good first dream things,] like Mt. Fuji, hawks, or eggplants.  This is a special year so it may end up beginning differently [than previous years].  I want to begin the new year with an awareness of myself.

Facing off against each other, it seems the two of you might be able to push each other to perform.

Otani: I would like to pitch against [Fujinami] and I would like to stand in the batter's box against him.  But I need to get to that level first.  I was always losing to him in high school, so I would like to beat him in the pros.  It would make me happy if we can both make it to Ichi-gun and play against each other.  That is one of my goals and I will use it to help keep me going.

Fujinami: Ideally, it would be best if we can pitch against each other.  Otani is truly a great pitcher.  If we are going to play against each other, I would like it to be as pitchers.

You will soon be moving into the player dorms and the 2012 draft class training camps will begin shortly thereafter.  What kinds of training are you currently doing in preparation for your careers as professional players?

Otani: The thing I am focusing on right now, before the 2012 draft class training camp, is building up my body.  Compared to professional players, I think I have no stamina.  I would like to work hard on building up my body, which includes eating.  For breakfast, I eat two to three bowls [of rice] and for dinner about seven bowls.  It is about the same amount I ate when [I played high school ball].

[Otani was originally not a big eater, but he grew when he got into high school.  Players tend to lose weight as they participate in the 2012 draft class training camp.  Because of that, Otani is hoping to push his weight to ninety kilograms.]

Otani: I am getting pitching work by tossing batting practice [during my high school's workouts]...  I am also getting myself accustomed to wood bats.  I am working with a wood bat now, but they have been breaking, sometimes as quickly as one every three days.  But I am getting used to them, so I am not breaking them as much any more.

Fujinami: My workouts do including playing catch and pitching practice.  But because it is the winter, my focus is on training exercises.  I think I will practice regularly, other than New Year's break.

Your ideal kind of baseball player.

Otani: It was the same back in high school because I could not win at the Koshien, but I would like to become a pitcher that can win.  As a hitter, I am not thinking about home runs.  I want to drive in runs, get hits during scoring opportunities.  That is the kind of hitter I want to become.  I like the way [Atsunori] Inaba approaches hitting.

Fujinami: My goal is to become a pitcher that can win.  I want to always focus on winning.

Otani: I am a [Yu] Darvish fan.  I also have respect for him.  The way he throws, his pitching style.  He looks good out there.  He felt close because he attended Tohoku High School.  When I was in junior high, I copied his delivery.

On what it means to get the number eleven, Darvish's old number.

Otani: It is a great number, so I do not want to lose.  I will practice.  Even if I am satisfied, there is no point if people around me are not satisfied, so I want to improve in a way that will make other see [what I am about].  I want to realize my potential and have confidence in myself by the time I am twenty-four or twenty-five.  Right now, I cannot make it to Ichi-gun.  I want to become the type of player, both in terms of hitting and pitching, that is always competing for titles.

Source: Nikkan Sports 1/2/2013 (Part 1), Nikkan Sports 1/2/2013 (Part 2)

Shohei Otani News and Notes: January 1, 2013

by on Jan.01, 2013 @ 11:45 pm, under NPB
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Updates on Shohei Otani from January 1:

Otani would like to become a hitter like Atsunori Inaba and a pitcher like Yu Darvish.  Source: Sanspo 1/1/2013

The two awards Otani would like to win: as a hitter, an RBI title; as a pitcher, the Sawamura award.  Source: Sponichi 1/1/2013

The Fighters may be leaning toward starting Otani at Ni-gun spring camp because they want to avoid overworking him, both mentally and physically.  Source: Nikkan Sports 1/1/2013

Kuriyama on Otani: "He is the type that does not take practices lightly. ...  The scariest thing is getting hurt.  He is still experiencing growing pains.  We need to continually evaluate his physical condition in order to figure out when he can begin pushing himself even harder. ... The skills will come once his body is ready.  Source: Sponichi 1/1/2013

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Sponichi has posted an interview with Otani:

Your thoughts on the New Year.

I want to start fresh and get myself ready for things like spring camp and training.

Which position would you like to play?

I do not really have a preference.  The team's performance also needs to be considered.  I will leave it up [to the coaches] since I am sure they are taking my skills into consideration.

Pitcher and hitter.  Which do you have confidence in?

I have confidence in my hitting, but I could not accomplish everything I wanted to as a pitcher in high school.  I want to fill those holes.  I do not know which I will ultimately become better at.

How would you like your first year to end?

More than results, I want to make sure I am satisfied with how things went so that I can move on to the next season.

What will your first pitch as a pro be?

I would like to go with a fastball.

Source: Sponichi 1/1/2013

Sanspo has also posted bits of an interview.  Some quotes from the interview.

On his decision.

When they first selected me, there was zero chance of me signing with them.  After they gave me materials and after I had time to think, things started to change.  I felt awful about letting people down, like those that supported my [first] decision to play in the Majors and the other teams that respected my [first] choice.  But I was able to get over that after receiving letters and hearing people say they would wait for me in Hokkaido.

On being a hitter/pitcher.

I thought it would be impossible at first, but [Hideki] Kuriyama put a lot of thought into it.  I would like to do my best to make it into Ichi-gun games as both.

On the Rookie of the Year award.

I would like to win a Rookie of the Year award, but first I want to do my best to make it to Ichi-gun.  I am a rookie, so I think double-digit wins would be amazing.  As a hitter, I would like to try for every player's dream of hitting .300.

On marriage.

I think marriage can wait until I have built up my confidence to perform at Ichi-gun.  I like pleasant women that are into sports.

On making the national team at some point in the future.

I would like to play on the national team.  Only good players are selected, so getting selected would be an honor.  I would like to become that kind of a player.

Source: Sanspo 1/1/2013

Shohei Otani News and Notes: December 27, 2012

by on Dec.28, 2012 @ 1:16 am, under NPB
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Shohei Otani updates from December 27:

Otani toured the Ni-gun facilities in Kamagaya on Thursday.  He also found out that he will be moving into room 404, Yu Darvish's old room.  Source: Sanspo 12/27/2012, Daily Spots 12/27/2012

The Fighters have an eighteen-room player dorm in Sapporo that is more "like a hotel since there are no assigned rooms."  However, there was a room that Sho Nakata used often.  Otani could end up using the room.  Source: Sanspo 12/27/2012

Darvish's hold room at the player dorm in Sapporo is another possibility.  Source: Sports Hochi 12/27/2012

After getting a physical on Wednesday morning, Otani hopped on a cab with his parents and visited the team facilities in Sapporo.  His arrival was delayed about an hour because of heavy snow.  Yoshinori Tateyama was using the facilities and briefly spoke to Otani.  Source: Nikkan Sports 12/27/2012Daily Sports 12/27/2012

Shohei Otani News and Notes: December 26, 2012

by on Dec.27, 2012 @ 2:21 am, under NPB
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Shohei Otani updates from December 26:

  • Otani toured the Sapporo team facilities on Wednesday.
  • A number of fans gathered at the facilities and thanked Otani for signing with the Fighters.
  • About 200 fans greeted Otani at the airport on Tuesday morning.
  • Tuesday's press conference was carried by four local TV channels in Sapporo.
  • There were over twenty cameras and 150 members of the media at the press conference.
  • Twenty TV cameras and about 150 members of the media covered Otani's first ceremonial pitch and swing at Sapporo Dome on Tuesday.
  • The Fighters flashed "160km/h" on the scoreboard when Otani threw his ceremonial pitch to Hideki Kuriyama on Tuesday.
  • Kuriyama likened Otani's presence in the batter's box to Hiromitsu Ochiai.  He also said he was reminded of a right-handed version of Randy Johnson.  In terms of Japanese pitchers, Suguru Egawa and Masumi Kuwata.
  • There is a good chance Otani will start the spring at Ni-gun camp.
  • Otani could make his pro debut on May 25 vs Hanshin at Koshien.
  • A SMAP concert was held at Sapporo Dome on Monday night.  Workers had to rebuild the mound and clean up the infielder and center field areas for the media.  Areas in left and right field were left unfinished.
  • Otani met Yusei Kikuchi at Hanamaki Higashi on Monday.
  • Otani currently weights eighty-seven kilograms.  His goal is to get up to about ninety-three kilograms.  To help him get there, he sometimes eats three bowl of rice in the morning and seven bowls at dinner.  When Yu Darvish first joined, he was eighty-five kilograms.

Source: Sanspo 12/26/2012, Sanspo 12/26/2012, Sanspo 12/26/2012, Nikkan Sports 12/26/2012, Sports Hochi 12/26/2012, Sports Hochi 12/26/2012, Daily Sports 12/26/2012, Daily Sports 12/26/2012, Sponichi 12/26/2012, Sponichi 12/26/2012, Sponichi 12/26/2012, Sponichi 12/26/2012, Sponichi 12/26/2012

Otani's day on Tuesday

06:00 - woke up at his home in Oshu, Iwate.
08:10 - took a taxi with his parents to Iwate Airport.
09:00 - was joined by Fighters scouting director Takashi Ofuchi and Hanamaki Higashi baseball director Hiroyuki Sasuga at the airport.  Plane took off at 9:16am.
10:14 - arrived at New Chitose Airport.  250 people greeted Otani.
10:20 - boarded team bus at the airport.
13:00 - signed an official contract at the hotel.  Ate lunch with Hideki Kuriyama and other team officials.
16:00 - press conference at a Hokkaido hotel.  Put on the team uniform with the number eleven at 16:19.
16:45 - left press conference hotel.  Arrived at team offices in Sapporo at 17:19.
17:32 - moved to Sapporo Dome.
18:02 - threw four practice pitches before throwing one pitch to Kuriyama.
18:04 - stepped into the batter's box for his first swing.
18:43 - All events done.  Left Sapporo Dome on team bus.

Source: Sports Hochi 12/26/2012

Some more bits and pieces from Otani's press conference on Tuesday

Sanspo -

You officially signed a contract [with the Fighters].

I have anxious, but also excited.  I will do my best to become one with the Fighters to win a championship.

On the time leading up to your decision to sign.

It was a very difficult decision, but the warm support I received from people in Iwate and the letters I received from people in Hokkaido, gave me courage.  I feel refreshed now.

On the player you look up to.

I have always looked up to [Atsunori] Inaba.  Sho Nakata's home run during the Nippon Series left an impression.  I was also moved when he bowed toward left.

On your personality.

I have my own pace.

On standing on the mound and in the batter's box.

I felt especially good on the mound.

On Sapporo Dome.

The stands were much larger than I imagined.  I do not know if I can hit [a home run], but I will do my best.

Source: Sanspo 12/26/2012

Sports Hochi -

On Sapporo Dome.

It was a lot larger than I imagined.  The fences were also very high.  I do not know if I can hit [a home run], but I will do my best.

When did you started hitting left-handed?

From when I first started playing baseball.  I do everything else with my right-hand.  My father also batted from the left side.  I can only bat from the left side.

On facing Hanshin's [Shintaro] Fujinami.

As both a pitcher and a hitter, he is someone I would like to face.  But first, I need to get myself up to that level.

Is there something you would like to say to your parents?

I put them through a lot and would like to repay them by making it to Ichi-gun and winning a championship.

On your personality?

I think I like sticking to my own pace.

It seems you received a letter from a fan in Hokkaido.

It was from an elderly person.  The letter said they followed me when I played high school ball and that they wanted me to come Hokkaido so that they can watch me play again.  It was a very warm letter.  I also received some letters from kids.

Do you like Japanese history?

There are parts I know well.  Like the end of the Edo period.  Ryoma Sakamoto?  Yes, he is interesting.

What are you plans for New Years?

I have not visited my maternal grandparents for three years.  I would like to visit them since I have made my decision.

Source: Sports Hochi 12/26/2012

Sponichi -

It has been two weeks since you announced your decision.  What are your thoughts?

There were many that warmly supported me.  Right now, I feel refreshed.

On your first visit to Hokkaido.

I was greeted by many people at the airport.  That was very nice.  There are many warm people [here]. That made me happy.

On your ambitions as a member of the Fighters.

I could not win a championship in high school, so I would like to watch the backs of my teammates as I grow and do my best to help win a championship.  As a pitcher, as a batter, I will do my best to help the team win a championship.  I think I like to do things at my own pace, but I will do my best.

Are there any players you look up to on the Fighters?

I have looked up to [Atsunori] Inaba for a long time and would like a chance to speak to him.  Sho Nakata's home run during the Nippon Series left a lasting impression.  I was moved when he bowed toward left.  There are many wonderful teammates.

On Kuriyama wanting you to become a clean-up hitting ace of the pitching staff.

The levels within the team are very high.  I am thankful he feels that way.  I have known Kuriyama-kantoku since high school.  I was probably the cause of a lot of headaches for him.  I would like to do my best to help him.

On your parents.

I put them through a lot, so I would like to repay them by playing at the top level in Japan.

On facing Hanshin's Fujinami.

First, I need to get myself to that level.  I would like to face him as a hitter and have a pitching duel against him.

Source: Sponichi 12/26/2012

Shohei Otani Press Conference News and Notes: December 25, 2012

by on Dec.26, 2012 @ 12:31 am, under NPB
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Shohei Otani press conference updates from December 25.

  • The press conference took place at a hotel in Sapporo.  Hideki Kuriyama was also present.
  • 150 members of the media covered the event.
  • Otani's parents sat in the front row.  Said Otani's father: "I just feel relieved.  I am a little sad though, since this means he will be leaving us to begin his career as a professional player."
  • Otani got a our of Sapporo Dome after the press conference.
  • Otani got a chance to pitch off the mound (Kuriyama swung and missed) and take a swing in the batter's box (swing against an imaginary pitch thrown by Kuriyama).
  • Otani got the max contract,  15 million base salary, 50 million in incentives, and a 100 million signing bonus, and the number eleven.

Source: Sanspo 12/25/2012, Sponichi 12/25/2012Sanspo 12/25/2012, Nikkan Sports 12/25/2012, Sponichi 12/25/2012, Sports Hochi 12/25/2012Sanspo 12/25/2012, Nikkan Sports 12/25/2012, Sponichi 12/25/2012, Sports Hochi 12/25/2012

Nikkan Sports is carrying a portion of the press conference:

On what it means to become a baseball player.

Many people greeted me when I arrived at the airport.  That was great and it made me feel happy. It is sinking in.

Your dream with Nippon Ham?

I never won a championship when I was high school, so I would like to follow my teammates on the Fighters as I develop and do my best to help win a championship.

On being a pitcher and hitter.

I want to do my best as both.  I want to become the type of player that has a stable career at Ichi-gun.

Is there a Nippon Ham player you want to emulate?

[Atsunori] Inaba is a player that I watched since a I was younger.  I would be grateful for a chance to talk to him.  [Sho] Nakata's home run during the Nippon Series made a lasting impression.  There are many wonderful players on the team.

On you first visit to Hokkaido.

There are many nice people here.  It made me want to work hard.

Anything you would like to say to your parents?

I was probably the cause of a lot headaches.  I would like to give back to them by making it to Ichi-gun and playing at the top level in Japan.

Source: Nikkan Sports 12/25/2012

Shohei Otani News and Notes: December 25, 2012

by on Dec.25, 2012 @ 4:44 pm, under NPB
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Shohei Otani updates from December 25:

Otani arrived in Hokkaido today for his press conference.  About 250 fans and members of the media greeted the 1st round draft pick at Shin Chitose Airport.

Source: Nikkan Sports 12/25/2012

Daily Sports has already posted some notes from his press conference.  They also provided the following quote:

I want to do my best and focus on winning a championship with the Fighters.  As a batter, as a pitcher, I will never give up each time I throw a pitch, each time I swing a bat.  I hope people see this.

Source: Daily Sports 12/25/2012

Hideki Kuriyama promised to personally hit 1,000 grounders to Otani once he is ready for it.

"I do not think he will have any problems with his throwing.  Fielding, on the other hand, once he is ready, I will do it.  1,000 grounders.  Until he throws up," said Kuriyama.

Kuriyama is also doing some training since it takes a lot to hit 1,000 grounders.

Source: Nikkan Sports 12/25/2012, Sanspo 12/25/2012, Sports Hochi 12/25/2012, Daily Sports 12/25/2012, Sponichi 12/25/2012

Otani plans to begin serious workouts in the New Year on January 5 in Hanamaki, Iwate.

Source: Sponichi 12/25/2012

There is another player in the NPB that might be used as both a pitcher and position player in 2013: Yakult Swallow Yuhei.  Yuhei will primarily be used as an outfielder next season, but could also be used as a left-handed reliever in spot situations.

Source: Sponichi 12/25/2012

The Texas Rangers are reportedly thinking about beginning their season in Japan at some point in the future, perhaps as early as 2014.  If it happens, it will likely be against the Oakland A's.  And depending on how things turn out, the Rangers might try to schedule an exhibition game against the Nippon Ham Fighters.  That could mean a possible match-up between Darvish and Otani.

Source: Sanspo 12/25/2012

Video game software developers unsure about how to handle Shohei Otani

by on Dec.22, 2012 @ 1:21 am, under NPB
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According to Nikkan Sports, video game software developers are not quite sure how they should handle Shohei Otani: ...do they focus on him as a pitcher, position player, both?  ...for games that require cards, do they create two cards, or one?  ...how should he be rated?

One software company is quoted as saying, "There have never been players like this before, so we will keep our eye on how things turn out as we decide what to do."

Source: Nikkan Sports 12/20/2012

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In other Otani news...

Pitching coach Tomohiro Kuroki hinted that Otani could become a closer.

"Closer?  That is a possibility.  Starting and things like that will be decided after we have had a chance to see [Otani]," said Kuroki.  "We need to ask him about his goals and see what kind of pitcher he wants to become."

He added, "He is a wonderful player so I am looking forward to working with him.  All I want is for him to apply himself 100% and do his best despite all the attention."

Source: Sports Hochi 12/21/2012

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Otani will first be registered as a pitcher because he feels more strongly about being a pitcher than a position player.  The Fighters are also planning to place an emphasis on his development as a pitcher during his first year.

Source: Nikkan Sports 12/22/2012

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The Fighters are planning to take pre-orders on Otani replica uniforms and t-shirts, beginning on December 25 at 11:00am.  Supplies will be limited to 300 each.  Shipments will start going out on January 25.

Replica Uniform (home): 7,900 yen
Player T-shirt (home): 3,000 yen 

Source: official announcement

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Hideki Kuriyama wants to sell the t-shirt he designed and gave to Otani during their negotiations.

Source: Nikkan Sports 12/21/2012

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There has been an increase fan interest in tour packages to Fighters spring camp in Okinawa next year since Otani decided to begin his career in Japan.

Source: Sponichi 12/21/2012

Shintaro Fujinami’s autographed rookie card could be worth up to 60,000 yen

by on Dec.22, 2012 @ 12:05 am, under Baseball Cards
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According to Sanspo, trading card shop MINT in Osaka is predicting 1st round draft pick Shintaro Fujimami's autographed baseball card will be worth between 20,000 to 30,000 yen.  If the serial number on the card is a one or a nineteen, it could push the price up to between 50,000 to 60,000 yen.

Source: Sanspo 12/21/2012