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Rookie Otani makes All-Star team as outfielder

Kyodo

Highly touted Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters rookie Shohei Otani was selected third in fan balloting among Pacific League outfielders to make the roster for the upcoming All-Star Series after the final results were announced on Monday.

The 18-year-old Otani, who failed to make the top 10 among PL starting pitchers, is the first rookie out of high school to be named since Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles ace right-hander Masahiro Tanaka appeared in the midsummer classic in his rookie season in 2007.

“I want to be able swing the bat hard and enjoy playing,” said Otani. “All the star players will be gathered. I’d like to learn a lot from the atmosphere there.”

The late Yukio Ozaki, who dropped out of high school to join the Fighters when they were still called the Toei Flyers in 1962, was chosen as an All-Star at the age of 17 in a year in which he won 20 games to lead the team to the PL pennant.

Orix Buffaloes outfielder Yoshio Itoi was the top vote-getter with 439,518 votes, while two-time home run king Wladimir Balentien of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows garnered the most in the Central League with 328,032.

“It’s an honor to be chosen even with a new team,” said Itoi, a fan favorite with the Fighters before moving to Orix in the offseason. “I am shocked to get the most votes. I want to give my utmost performance and win some kind of prize during the series.”

Hiroshima Carp ace Kenta Maeda overtook Hanshin Tigers rookie Shintaro Fujinami, who was the top vote-getter among CL starters at the midway point in fan balloting, with 249,583 votes. Fujinami was third with 154,574.

Rakuten’s Tanaka, who topped PL starters with 159,928 votes, was selected via fan balloting for the second time.

As a team, Orix had the most vote-getters in the PL with four players named, among them Yoshihisa Hirano (closer), Lee Dae-ho (first base) and Hikaru Ito (catcher).

The Seibu Lions were the only team not to have any players selected for the All-Star Series.

The results of the players’ votes will be announced on Thursday. The managers’ picks of players will be announced on July 1 before each league adds an additional member on July 10 as a special entry.

Game 1 is scheduled for July 19 at Sapporo Dome, followed by Game 2 at Jingu Stadium on the 20th and Game 3 on the 22nd at Iwaki Green Stadium in Fukushima Prefecture.