Hotaka Yamakawa, 31, an infielder for the Seibu baseball team, was charged with forcible sexual intercourse with a female acquaintance, but the charges were dropped due to insufficient suspicion. On September 4, the team announced that Yamakawa would be suspended indefinitely from playing in official games as a punishment for his misconduct, and that he would not be allowed to play in any games for the first or second team during this season.
Yamakawa also played for Japan in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March and contributed greatly to Samurai Japan becoming the world’s No. 1 team. However, after being struck from the roster on May 12 in response to a report by Bunshun Online, he continued to practice with the third team.
The news of Yamakawa was reported in Taiwan, where baseball is as popular as in Japan, and various opinions were exchanged on SNS. The fact that Taiwan is a land where the Seibu baseball team has had a long history of exchange with Japan may have had something to do with it.
Kuo Tai-yuan, who helped Taiwan win the bronze medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, played for Seibu from 1985 to 1995. Meanwhile, GM Hisanobu Watanabe, who heads the field, has been with the Taiwanese baseball team for three years as a player and coach. On August 8 and 9 of this year, the Unification Lions and Saitama Seibu Lions, both of which Kaku Taiyuan was a member of, held a collaborative event in which Seibu alumnus Hisanori Yokota, who is a pitching coach with the Taiwanese baseball team, held a talk show and one-batter duel with former manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji. Thus, Seibu OBs have a long history of contributing to the development of Taiwanese baseball as leaders.
What stands out on social networking sites are the love calls encouraging Yamakawa to switch to the Taiwanese baseball world.
＜Come to Taiwan! The baseball world in Taiwan should be more open-minded! <If I were a professional baseball player in Taiwan, I would have been a long time ago.
＜If it were professional baseball in Taiwan, he might have played for the first team by now.
<There are Lions in Taiwan. Come to the Unification Lions of Taiwan.
On the other hand, there were many who said that the Japanese baseball team’s disciplinary measures were harsh.
＜It seems that the Japanese baseball world is very strict about compliance.
＜I wonder if the punishment will be lifted next year or the year after.
＜Even if there is no prosecution, is the suspension indefinite? >
＜It’s a shame to see a great player leave Seibu.
Some people think that indefinite does not literally mean permanent.
＜In other words, indefinite means that it could be lifted at any time. The team is probably waiting to see how things go until the heat dies down.
Many people are predicting Yamakawa’s future by comparing him to players who have been involved in scandals in the past. One “precedent” that came up on social networking sites in Taiwan was the past scandals of Trevor Bauer of the current DeNa team.
In May 2009, when Bauer was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman. The police launched an investigation, and MLB and the Players Association placed Bauer on the restricted list and suspended him.’ The charges were dropped in February 2010, but the suspension continued for a while, and he resumed playing in ’23.
However, some said that the case could not be equated with Yamakawa’s case.
＜Bauer is a foreigner, and the incident took place overseas. From the Japanese point of view, that is a different standard.
The scandals in the Taiwanese baseball world were also mentioned.
＜Even Taiwan would not think of using Yamakawa so easily.
＜Lin Zhixiang was suspended indefinitely for adultery, so the Taiwanese baseball world is not so naive either.
In August of the same year, infielder Lin Zhixiang, who had been a member of the Unification Lions in the past and was selected for the WBC team in 2005, was suspended indefinitely for official games after it was revealed that he had an affair, and he was eventually transferred to another team. Since even adultery is a no-no, the view is that sending him to prosecution for forced sexual intercourse is an even higher hurdle to overcome.
One baseball fan in Taiwan wrote calmly that Yamakawa’s future was not bright.
<Even if Yamakawa exercises his FA rights, his annual salary at Seibu will drop significantly if he does not receive offers from other teams. There is a possibility of a civil lawsuit, so other teams need to think carefully.
Yamakawa has 17 days left on his first-team roster before he can obtain FA rights. According to reports in Nikkan Sports and other media, Seibu will apply for “special measures for disabled players” for the 17 days until he returns to active duty after being demoted to the second team due to an injury in April. The fact that he is being welcomed by Taiwanese baseball fans may be a ray of hope for Yamakawa, whose future is uncertain.
Reporting and writing： Tadasu Nishitani
Writer, born in 1981 in Kanagawa Prefecture. Graduated from the School of Social Sciences at Waseda University. After working as a reporter for the Niigata Nippo, Nishitani worked as a freelance writer, moving to Shanghai from 2009 to 2003 to report on the current situation in China from there. Author of "Reporto: Chugoku 'Infiltration Work' Diary" (Shogakukan Shinsho), "Reporto: Digital China Experience" (PHP Business Shinsho), "Hong Kong Boy Burns" (Shogakukan), etc.
PHOTO： Sankei Shimbun