Seibu Yamakawa, who has been charged with filing paperwork: Even in the worst case scenario of dismissal, the Independent League will not easily reach out to him with an “unusual request”. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Seibu Yamakawa, who has been charged with filing paperwork: Even in the worst case scenario of dismissal, the Independent League will not easily reach out to him with an “unusual request”.

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Hotaka Yamakawa of the Saitama Seibu Lions was sent to prosecution (Photo: Sankei Shimbun)

Hotaka Yamakawa of the Saitama Seibu Lions, a member of the winning team of the World Baseball Classic (WBC), was referred to prosecutors on March 23 after allegations of indecent assault against a female acquaintance were made. The court gave the opinion of “appropriate disposition,” leaving the decision to the district attorney, rather than “strict disposition,” which would call for prosecution.

According to a May 11 report by Bunshun Online, Yamakawa was suspected of forcible sexual intercourse for indecently assaulting a female acquaintance in her 20s at a hotel in Minato Ward, Tokyo, last November. The woman, who was treated roughly, bled and filed a damage report because she felt punished by Yamakawa.

Yamakawa, on the other hand, admitted to having a male-female relationship with the woman, but strongly denied the reported “forcible force” part. The Metropolitan Police Department has been conducting a careful investigation, including voluntary questioning of both the woman and Yamakawa.

Will they be prosecuted? Will the case end in a non-prosecution? A person involved in the baseball world said, “If she is indicted, Seibu will be able to get a conviction.

If the indictment is successful, Seibu will fire Yamakawa. Even if the indictment is dropped, it is hard to imagine that he will continue under the same contract as this year. Even if the Seibu baseball team decides to reinvent themselves with Yamakawa, they will have no choice but to downgrade him to a developmental contract.

In the worst case scenario, if Yamakawa is fired, none of the other 11 Japanese teams would be interested in acquiring him, given the current strict compliance and harassment policies. That said, it is not easy for him to continue playing in the United States. There is the case of Trevor Bauer, who joined DeNA this season.

When Trevor Bauer was a member of the Dodgers in 2009, a woman accused him of assaulting her during sexual intercourse. Bauer was suspended, and a subsequent investigation led to the case being dropped due to lack of evidence. Although there were no more legal issues, the Dodgers terminated Bauer’s contract, and no other Major League Baseball team moved to acquire him. A source close to the matter continued, “The U.S. also has a tough stance on harassment.

The U.S. also has a tough stance against harassment. Therefore, even if Yamakawa wants to continue playing baseball, he will not be accepted easily. In that case, the independent leagues in Japan and Taiwan and South Korea would be the options overseas.

The independent leagues are operated by an organization separate from the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), to which the 12 professional baseball teams belong, and there are regional leagues in each of the five regions in Japan. When the league was established in 2005, it was an amateur league, but since 2009 it has been treated as a professional league.

In the past, these leagues were a sort of a receptacle for veteran players who had been eliminated from the 12 teams, but now there are a number of players who are playing an active role, such as Katsuya Kadonaka (formerly of Kochi) of Lotte, who became the top hitter and was named best nine hitter, and Kyoki Yuasa (Toyama) of Hanshin, who played a key role in the WBC as a relay pitcher. They have become reserves who aim to become professionals.

If Yamakawa is fired and none of the 12 teams accept him, the independent league would seem to be a good place for him to get back on his feet, both physically and mentally, but it is not easy to see if a team will come along to acquire him right away. The leader of a team in the independent league said, “If he has as good a track record as Yamakawa, he could be a good candidate for the independent league.

If he has a track record like Yamakawa, there are probably a lot of teams that would be interested in acquiring him if they were only looking for a competitive player, and compared to the 12 teams in the NPB, it may be easier to get a hold of him. However, when Ikuhiro Kiyota, who was dismissed from the Chiba Lotte Marines in 2009 due to problems with a woman, wanted to continue his career but could not find a team, the (independent) league asked the teams in the independent league, “If possible, we would prefer not to acquire (Kiyota). The (independent) league had requested that the teams in the independent league “not acquire (Kiyota) if at all possible. But since it was the league’s wish, it was not binding.

In January 2009, Kiyota was reported by FRIDAY for having an affair with a woman, and it was revealed that he had broken the team’s rule of “no dining with outsiders” to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and that he had made a series of false reports. In May of the same year, Lotte, taking a serious view of Kiyota’s repeated acts of disloyalty, terminated his contract with the team.

After that, no team made a move to acquire Kiyota. He filed a lawsuit against Lotte for 97 million yen in damages, claiming that the termination of his contract was an abuse of the right to dismiss him.

Compared to Kiyota, Yamakawa’s reported actions against the woman are far less impressive, as they have been reported to the police. Although the independent leagues are not as large as the NPB, there is a good chance that an unusual request not to acquire Yamakawa will be made, considering the fact that the independent leagues are supported by sponsors and provide an environment in which baseball can be played.

Was there “consent” between Yamakawa and the woman? We can only leave it to the judgment of the prosecutors to determine what the facts are. However, there is no doubt that Yamakawa’s own actions have made it more difficult than expected for him to continue playing baseball as before.

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