Seibu’s Yamakawa’s “New Home” if He Can No Longer Play in Japan Due to Alleged Sexual Assault | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Seibu’s Yamakawa’s “New Home” if He Can No Longer Play in Japan Due to Alleged Sexual Assault

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Yamakawa was sent to prosecution for assaulting a woman. Even if he is not prosecuted, he may not be able to wear this uniform (Photo: Yasuko Sakaguchi)

Hotaka Yamakawa, a Seibu infielder who represented Japan in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March, was arrested on May 23 at the Azabu Police Station of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department on charges of forcible sexual intercourse. The police did not issue a severe disposition, which would have resulted in prosecution, but rather an opinion of “appropriate disposition,” which would have left the decision to the prosecutors.

Yamakawa is accused of sexually assaulting a female acquaintance in her twenties at a hotel in Tokyo’s Minato Ward last November. Because she felt assulted by Yamakawa, the woman who was roughly treated bled and filed a damage report.

Yamakawa, on the other hand, admitted to having an intimate relationship with the woman but strongly denied using “forcible force.” The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has been conducting an extensive investigation into the case, including voluntary questioning of both the woman and Yamakawa. The focus of the investigation is likely to be on whether or not there was consent, but if there is a lead in the investigation, where would Yamakawa go to make a comeback as a player? According to one Seibu alumnus, “If he is indicted, Seibu will be the first team to take him off the field.”

If he is indicted, Seibu will almost certainly fire him; even if he is not indicted, I believe he will be fired. 

Seibu was found to have unlawfully given money to amateur players during previous scouting activities in 2007 and was stripped of the right to select the top two players in that year’s high school draft, as well as having to pay a sanction (30 million yen).  This was the first disgraceful incident since the draft conference began, and we have been sensitive to compliance violations since then, with cases of suspensions that would have gone unnoticed at other teams. 

“If Yamakawa is unable to return to Seibu, where might he look for a new home?”

Another Seibu alumnus has come forward, “Taiwan could be a viable option. The other 11 Japanese teams would be difficult. Yamakawa has a good track record, but in these days of strict compliance violations, taking a player whose personal life outside of baseball has been disrupted and who has been involved in a police matter would be questionable. The same is true in the independent leagues. If that’s the case, the question becomes, “Why don’t you bring up young players with potential?” 

It’s also difficult to think about the US and Korea. In the United States, Trevor Bauer, who joined DeNA this season, was accused by a woman of assaulting her during sexual intercourse in ’21 while with the Dodgers, and an investigation during his suspension resulted in the case being dropped due to a lack of evidence. Despite the fact that there were no further legal issues, his contract with the Dodgers was terminated, and he was not acquired by another team. 

In Korea, too, society criticizes men when there are problems or bad behavior toward women. In this country, for example, if a man looks at sexually explicit photos on his phone in public, women will look at him with disdain. As a result, Korean men would never look at such images in public. Baseball is a popular sport in both Korea and Japan, so we imagine it must be difficult to accept a troubled player like Yamakawa.”

He is an accomplished calligrapher with an 8th dan. When he is feeling down, he uses calligraphy to pull himself together. He says, “The character represents the body,” but I wonder if he is taking up the brush now that he has betrayed his country as a result.

Why is Taiwan the only possibility that remains?

‘First of all, Seibu has a long history of exchange as a baseball team.’ Since Kuo Tai-yuan, who contributed to Taiwan’s bronze medal win at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, began playing for Seibu in 1985, Taiwanese players have been continuously listed, and even after Kuo Tai-yuan returned to Taiwan, there have been cases of Seibu alumni joining Taiwan’s professional baseball team as players and coaches. One of them is now a Seibu player, GM Hisanobu Watanabe, who now serves as Seibu’s field head. Watanabe has been with the team for three years as a player and coach, has contributed to the development of the Taiwanese baseball world, and is a Taiwan expert.

Until a few years ago, the team was in contact with the Unification Lions, where Kaku Taiyuan was a member, and they held events such as “Taiwan Day” on Seibu game days, and “Japan Day” in Taiwan. The Lions have such a strong relationship with that country.

Is there a culture that accepts players like Yamakawa who have had problems with women? An alumnus of the baseball world who once played for a Taiwanese baseball team revealed the following.

Although there is no simple comparison with Yamakawa’s female-related problems, there have been many cases of baseball betting that took advantage of the nation’s love of gambling, and gangs were involved. In fact, some Taiwanese professional baseball players were permanently banned. There were players who had problems involving women, but there were no players who were suspended for long periods of time when I was coaching them. In that sense, Taiwan may still be more tolerant than the U.S. or South Korea today.

In the Internet society of Taiwan, Japanese professional baseball can be viewed, and baseball cards with photos and profiles of Japanese players are sold. Some players and coaches from the Japanese professional baseball world who have been to Taiwan have been asked to sign baseball cards that show them in their active years. A Seibu alumnus continues,

“There are many people in Taiwan who are interested in Japanese professional baseball, and among them there are a lot of Seibu fans. However, in the case of Yamakawa, I don’t think we can move on to the next step until we see what the prosecutor’s decision will be first.”

Taiwan, with its close ties to Seibu, may be an easy place to visit, but because of the large number of fans, there is a possibility that they may show their dislike depending on the nature of the prosecutor’s decision. In any case, Yamakawa has certainly strangled himself with this case.

Kuo Tai-yuan, a Taiwan native who played for Seibu until 1997. He even served as Taiwan’s national team manager, and his presence in Taiwan is linked to the friendly relationship between Taiwan and Seibu that continues to this day (photo: Kyodo News).
  • Photo Yasuko Sakaguchi

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