The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, winners of a second consecutive Pacific League title this season, secured the negotiating rights to Gifu Commercial and Business High School right-hander Jumpei Takahashi, the most sought-after player in Nippon Professional Baseball’s amateur draft on Thursday.
Three clubs wanted Takahashi in the first round — Softbank, the PL’s Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and the Central League’s Chunichi Dragons — in which the rights to a player selected by multiple teams are assigned by lot.
“I am more nervous standing here than on the mound,” joked Hawks manager and former pitcher Kimiyasu Kudo, when asked how he felt after getting the 18-year-old Takahashi, whose fastball clocks more than 150 kph.
“He (Takahashi) is a fantastic player and I am glad we got him. Naturally I want him to aim to be Softbank’s ace and I believe that he will be become a pitcher that can represent Japan. I want him to give his best.”
Takahashi said, “I am grateful the multiple clubs designated me. There is no doubt that Softbank is a high-level team. I am looking forward to playing under a manager that is a former pitcher.”
Meanwhile, the Hanshin Tigers walked off with Meiji University outfielder Shun Takayama, who has the record number of hits in the Tokyo Big6 League, an intercollegiate league that features six prominent universities in the Tokyo area.
“You never know what is going to happen at the draft but I am really happy that I am a first-round pick,” said Takayama. “I want to be a player that can have a long playing career like new Hanshin manager (Tomoaki) Kanemoto.”
The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles claimed the rights to Kanto Daiichi High School outfielder Rui Okoe, who sparkled at Koshien Stadium this summer at the National High School Championship.
After missing out on Takahashi, Chunichi and Nippon Ham both designated Tokai University Sagami High School pitcher Shinnosuke Ogasawara, with Chunichi winning the negotiating rights.