The “Big Three” drew the spotlight with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters winning the rights to negotiate a contract with Tokai University flamethrower Tomoyuki Sugano in a surprising turn of events at the Japanese baseball draft on Thursday.
The Yomiuri Giants were expected to exclusively name Sugano, who is Giants manager Tatsunori Hara’s nephew, but Fighters club president Toshikazu Tsuda rewrote the script by naming the right-hander before drawing the winning ticket.
Sugano, who clocks a 157-kph fastball, declined to comment on the Fighters winning the negotiation rights, simply saying, “My college baseball career isn’t over yet, so I want to win the championship in the end.”
Tsuda was more than happy with the result.
“Sugano has been our club’s only choice since this past spring. I want to jump for joy. It’s been eight years since the Fighters moved to Sapporo and we want to build a pitching dynasty. (To Sugano), please come to our team,” Tsuda said.
Chiba Lotte Marines manager Norifumi Nishimura, meanwhile, won the rights to talk with highly touted Toyo University left-hander Takahiro Fujioka after three clubs, including the Yokohama BayStars and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, named him in the first round.
The Hiroshima Carp got the last of the Big Three, exclusively naming Meiji University right-hander Yusuke Nomura.
Fujioka won the MVP for the second year in a row at the national university championship, while Nomura became one of a handful of pitcher to earn more than 30 wins and record 300 strikeouts in his Tokyo Big Six League career.
The Chunichi Dragons won the lottery for infielder Shuhei Takahashi of Yamanashi’s Tokaidai Kofu High School, beating out the Orix Buffaloes and Tokyo Yakult Swallows, while the Hanshin Tigers snatched up Keio University outfielder Hayata Ito.
After the disappointment of losing the lottery for Sugano, the Giants settled for left-hander Ryuya Matsumoto from Eimei High School in Kagawa Prefecture.
The Seibu Lions chose Ken Togame of corporate league club JR East, while the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks picked Shota Takeda — both right-handers — of Miyazaki Nichidai High School.