Tokai University pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano refuses to play for the Nippon-Ham Fighters, saying he wants to realize his dream of suiting up for the Yomiuri Giants managed by his uncle, Tatsunori Hara.
Both the Fighters and Giants named Sugano in the first round of October's baseball draft, but the Pacific League club got the winning ticket to draft Sugano.
However, the hard throwing right-hander on Nov. 21 repeated his long desire to wear Giants orange and black.
"I may be taking a longer route (to becoming a professional ballplayer), but my childhood dream (of playing for the Giants) was stronger," Sugano said at a news conference, hinting at his intention to wait until the Central League club wins the rights to negotiate with him.
According to Tokai University baseball team manager Hitoki Yokoi, Sugano plans to stay in college using the "graduation postponement system" established for students who are unable to land post-graduation jobs while they are still in college. This means that Sugano will continue to train with the Tokai University baseball team and wait until next year's draft.
"If I go to the corporate league, it will take two years (to join the professional league)," Sugano said. "I thought the best choice was to (stay at Tokai University and) get support from the numerous people at this university."
Because of his status at the university next year, Sugano will not be allowed to play in official games. Being away from competition is a big risk, but Sugano is not worried.
"I'm going to use that time to build strength and come back even better for (next year's) draft," he said. "I'm absolutely confident that I won't be wasting the year."
Meanwhile, the Fighters are not giving up on landing Sugano.
"We don't consider this an official answer," Nippon-Ham general manager Masao Yamada after hearing of Sugano's announcement through Yokoi.
Under Nippon Professional Baseball rules, the Fighters' negotiation rights are valid until the end of March.
"We chose him as a first-round pick with serious dedication as a team," Yamada said. "As long as Sugano's future is unclear, we will to continue negotiating patiently."
But Sugano has no intention of taking part in any negotiations with the Fighters.
"I am grateful for the team's evaluation of me," he said. "But I have no intention of meeting with them."
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