Baseball

High school slugger Kiyomiya plans to turn pro

Kyodo

Kotaro Kiyomiya, who holds the unofficial high school baseball record of 111 home runs, on Friday expressed his intention to turn professional.

“I have decided to try for my next big dream with the understanding of how tough it is to be a pro,” the 18-year-old Waseda Jitsugyo High School senior told a news conference in Tokyo.

“I want to clear each hurdle that presents itself before me. I would like to join a team that will help me grow as a player,” said Kiyomiya.

Kiyomiya also said he hopes that he will one day be able to hit 868 homers and match the all-time professional home run record held by Sadaharu Oh.

Officials of Nippon Professional Baseball clubs welcomed the teenager’s announcement, with Hanshin Tigers president Keiichiro Yotsufuji saying the team will name him in the first round of the draft of amateur players on Oct. 26.

Other ballclubs, including the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Rakuten Eagles and Chunichi Dragons, said they will consider Kiyomiya as a candidate for the first round.

Nobuhira Hayashi, the Chiba Lotte Marines’ director of baseball operations, praised Kiyomiya for his bat speed and flexible wrists.

Tokyo Yakult Swallows president Tsuyoshi Kinugasa noted that his popularity will help draw more spectators to games.

Kiyomiya hit two home runs to help Waseda Jitsugyo reach the last four of the National High School Baseball Championship when he was a first-year student.

This year, the team lost in the second round of the National High School Baseball Invitational Tournament in the spring and also failed to qualify for the summer championship at Koshien Stadium.

But Kiyomiya was named to the national team for the U-18 World Cup held earlier this month, and broke the previous high school home run record of 107 in a practice game before taking off for Canada for the 12-nation competition.