• Kyodo

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Yuki Saito, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ first-round draft pick, said Thursday that he wants to be taken under the wings of his hero and team ace Yu Darvish.

“(Darvish) is the ace of Japan. I’d like to learn many things from him,” the 22-year-old Waseda University senior told a nationally televised press conference at Sapporo Dome.

Asked about his goal for his rookie season, Saito said, “I’m in no position to talk about how many games I want to win. I have to try to make the opening day roster first.”

Saito on Thursday signed his first professional contract. He receives a ¥100 million signing bonus, as well as ¥50 million in performance incentives on top of his ¥15 million salary.

In the Oct. 28 draft, Nippon Ham won a four-team lottery over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, the Chiba Lotte Marines and the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks for the rights to Saito.

“I just arrived in Hokkaido today. It’s very cold, but I understand that the people in Hokkaido are very warm,” Saito said. “I hope I can quickly become an important member of the Nippon Ham Fighters and the prefecture of Hokkaido.”

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