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Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011

Tokai pitcher Sugano rejects Fighters' offer to join club


Highly touted Tokai University flamethrower Tomoyuki Sugano, who was selected in the first round of the baseball draft by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, decided on Monday to not accept the Pacific League club's offer to join the team.

News photo
Decision time: Tokai University pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano speaks at a news conference on Monday in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. KYODO PHOTO

Earlier in the day, Tokai University manager Hitoki Yokoi reportedly told Nippon Ham that Sugano, 22, does not wish to join the club. He plans to train in the next year with the hope of being named in the draft by the Yomiuri Giants — the team managed by his uncle Tatsunori Hara.

"It was an honor to have a chance to hear from Nippon Ham. But my dream from when I was a child was stronger in the end. I might be taking a detour, but I want to shoot for my dream," Sugano said in a news conference at the Tokai University baseball dormitory in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. "I really thought it over and made this decision, so my mind is at ease."

The Fighters won the right to negotiate with the right-hander after drawing the winning lottery ticket in a contest with the Giants, who had believed they would be the only team to name Sugano because of his family ties to Hara.

Sugano called the Giants a "special club" and broke down in tears when speaking of his future earlier this month after Tokai University lost to Toin University of Yokohama in the semifinals of the Kanto regional university championship.

Sugano would lose the right to participate in next year's draft if he decided to play for a corporate or independent league team or for any professional teams overseas.

"I know that there are risks involved in taking time off and it will be a tough road ahead. But I hope to become an even bigger player as I get ready for next year's draft," Sugano said.

Sugano's grandfather, Mitsugu Hara, who is a special adviser for the Tokai University baseball team, has suggested Sugano will be allowed to use the training facilities at Tokai University for one year.

"In a sense, this will give me some room to breathe. I want to think more of the pluses than the minuses," said Sugano, who is prohibited from pitching in any pro or amateur games during his year off.

On Nov. 7, Sugano was greeted by Nippon Ham general manager Masao Yamada and other team officials and said he wanted to take the month of November to decide what to do.

Nippon Ham plans to continue trying to convince Sugano until the end of next March when the negotiation right expires.

Iwakuma eyes majors


Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma notified his club Monday of his intention to become a free agent as he aims to ply his trade in the major leagues.

Monday marked the period to begin procedures for those who have qualified as free agents.

Iwakuma, who has spent nine years on the top team roster, can negotiate with teams overseas for the first time after his attempt to join the Oakland Athletics via the posting system last year ended in failure.

"I wanted to give my dream of playing in the majors one more shot. The best would be to play for a team that needs me," said Iwakuma.

In 2008, Iwakuma won the Sawamura Award and Pacific League MVP honor with a record of 21-4, a 1.87 ERA and an .840 winning percentage. This past season he went just 6-7 with a 2.42 ERA in 17 starts after he was deactivated in May with right shoulder pain.

This year, NPB announced a total of 93 players who are eligible to become free agents.

Fukuoka Softbank Hawks left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who helped his team win its first Japan Series in eight years against the Chunichi Dragons, is also among those who fulfilled the requirement to take a shot at moving to the majors, along with Softbank shortstop Munenori Kawasaki.

Those who wish to file for free agency must notify their clubs within seven business days following the Japan Series and this year's deadline is Nov. 30.

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