Seibu’s Hotaka Yamakawa, who was sent to prosecutors, was rumored to be the target of next season’s FA transfer, and Softbank Chairman Sadaharu Oh’s “complicated heart”. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Seibu’s Hotaka Yamakawa, who was sent to prosecutors, was rumored to be the target of next season’s FA transfer, and Softbank Chairman Sadaharu Oh’s “complicated heart”.

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Hotaka Yamakawa listens to Chairman Sadaharu Oh before a SoftBank-Seibu game last July (Photo: Sankei Shimbun)

Seibu infielder Hotaka Yamakawa, 31, a member of Japan’s World Baseball Classic (WBC) national team, has been practicing at the team’s facility in Tokorozawa since being removed from the roster on May 23 after being charged by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s Azabu Police Station with having forced sex with a female acquaintance. While the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has not yet made a decision on whether or not to indict him, various possibilities are being discussed regarding his future.

Yamakawa, who is in his 10th year as a professional baseball player, was offered a four-year contract by Seibu last offseason and has signed a one-year deal this season. It was half-established that if he continued to show his ability this season, he would qualify for domestic free agent status and join SoftBank this offseason.

This was because during hitting practice at last year’s All-Star game, an audio recording of a conversation between the players was leaked to the NPB’s official video channel, saying, “Agoo (nickname of Yamakawa), I heard you’re going to SoftBank. This was because speculation quickly spread that the conversation might have been a representation of Yamakawa’s desire to play for Softbank. When the existence of this video was revealed, the screams and frustration of Seibu fans also surfaced. A veteran reporter who has been covering professional baseball for a long time revealed, “There was a case in one of last year’s All-Star games.

After last year’s All-Star game, it became an established fact that Yamakawa would join SoftBank if he obtained FA rights. Even if a player becomes eligible to exercise his FA rights during the season, the rules prohibit prior negotiations with the team of his choice, so a talented player like Yamakawa, who is close to acquiring FA rights, usually refrains from openly discussing the matter with officials of other teams.

However, it may be the case that Yamakawa had almost one year to acquire FA rights. However, perhaps because he had almost a year to go before he obtained his FA rights, Yamakawa showed no sign of being concerned about the risk of “pre-negotiations” even after the video was leaked last year, and showed up during the Hawks’ practice sessions at Softbank’s Pay-Pay Dome, where the Hawks practice before Seibu, to watch the Hawks practice. When the Hawks were practicing at the Pai Pay Dome, home of Softbank, he would show up during the Hawks’ practice, which preceded Seibu’s, and often went to greet Chairman Oh as he watched. Chairman Oh also liked home run hitters, so we would often spend about 30 minutes talking with him.

Yamakawa, who won the Pacific League home run crown three times, including last season, was probably treated by Chairman Oh as “a junior home run hitter who came to say hello,” rather than with an eye toward negotiations to acquire him in the near future.

However, in May, just 15 days before Yamakawa was due to receive his domestic FA rights, a report by Bunshun Online revealed allegations of forced sexual intercourse with a female acquaintance. In November of last year, Yamakawa allegedly sexually assaulted a female acquaintance in her twenties at a hotel in Minato Ward, Tokyo.

Yamakawa admitted to having a male-female relationship with the woman, but strongly denied the reported “forcible force” part. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department conducted a careful investigation, including voluntary questioning of both the woman and Yamakawa, and the case was referred to the police on May 23.

A scandal involving a key player of another Pacific League team. The best way to avoid causing a stir would be to sit back and watch the investigation unfold, even if you have a close relationship with the player, but Chairman Oh “made his move. When Seibu showed up at the payday dome to play a three-game series against Softbank from May 19 to 21, Oh was seen conversing with the Seibu coaches.

He asked, “‘What’s going on (with Yamakawa)?’ and it seems he asked them about the current situation and future prospects. I believe that the question was about the impact on the baseball world as a whole in the future, rather than about whether or not to acquire Yamakawa if he becomes an FA. I think he was more concerned about the impact on the baseball world as a whole in the future. However, before the incident occurred, Chairman Oh had talked with Yamakawa many times, and I think he had a good grasp of Yamakawa’s personality. That is why I think that the Yamakawa case is even more complicated for him.

A Seibu alumnus who once received advice from Oh as an amateur player during the period when Oh was out of uniform after finishing his tenure as manager of the Giants reveals, “He asked me whether he was being prosecuted or not.

I think Seibu’s response, and that of other teams, will change depending on whether the case is an indictment or not, but now that Yamakawa has been charged with a crime, I don’t think he will be transferred to the Hawks, which has been rumored in the baseball world for a long time. For example, if Yamakawa is indicted and Seibu does not sign him for the next season, other teams may try to acquire him, depending on the reason for the indictment. However, in the case of Softbank, even if the field said, “We want him,” I think Mr. Oh would not allow it.

 When Mr. Oh gave me advice, the thing that stuck with me the most was when he said, “Of course baseball is important, but if you are not a solid member of society, you will not be able to play baseball well. I was struck by his words because Mr. Oh was a person who worked hard to get to that level during his working years. Although Mr. Oh is no longer in uniform, I have heard many stories about his consideration for others when he is away from baseball, and that is the root of Mr. Oh. Considering Mr. Oh’s personality and what he has valued, I don’t think the Hawks will acquire Yamakawa.

After Oh assumed his current position, there was a famous episode in the 2010 draft when the Hawks were deciding between Shogo Akiyama (now of Hiroshima) and Yuki Yanagita, and Oh said, “Which one can make the ball fly? However, other than that, he never interfered too much in the organization policy of the field. However, even if SoftBank had the circumstances in place to acquire Yamakawa, Chairman Oh’s wishes could not be ignored.

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