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Top>HAKUMON Chuo [2014 winter Issue]>Cover Person: “Dream to become a professional baseball player”—Fulfilling their dreams at draft Fukuda (outfielder) selected by Rakuten in third round; Shimabukuro (pitcher) selected by SoftBank in fifth round

Hakumon CHUOIndex


After being carried on the shoulders of friends and teammates, Fukuda and Shimabukuro were tossed in the air in celebration

Cover Person: “Dream to become a professional baseball player”

Fulfilling their dreams at draft
Fukuda (outfielder) selected by Rakuten in third round; Shimabukuro (pitcher) selected by SoftBank in fifth round

Student Reporters: Ryoji Nakamura, Rika Isaka

The Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) draft was held on the evening of October 23rd at a hotel in Tokyo. From Chuo University, Masayoshi Fukuda (outfielder) was selected by Rakuten in the third round and Yosuke Shimabukuro (pitcher) was selected by SoftBank in the fifth round.

Shimabukuro’s pitching form. His intense competitive spirit can be seen in his expression. (Photograph provided by Chuo University Sports Newspaper; photograph taken by student report Shun Endo (3rd-year student, Faculty of Letters))

[Fukuoka SoftBank: Shimabukuro, Pitcher, Chuo University]

At 18:37, cheers of jubilation arose from the audience when Shimabukuro’s name was read over the television monitor. This moment marked the beginning of a career in professional baseball for Yosuke Shimabukuro, captain of the Chuo University Baseball Team.

A news conference was held by Chuo University in the medium-sized auditorium of C Square on the Tama Campus. Approximately 350 people gathered at the venue, including fans, students and members of the baseball team.

Athletes are plunged into professional baseball after being selected in the draft meeting. Which player will join which team? This is an important day for many people associated with baseball.

The draft meeting began at 17:00 in Tokyo. The draft meeting was broadcast on a large television monitor at the Chuo University venue. Numerous fans, television reporters and newspaper reporters held their breath in anticipation. Reporters even came from pitcher Shimabukuro’s hometown in Okinawa.

October 23rd was also the final day for games of the Tohto University Autumn Baseball League. After the last game, an awards ceremony was held to honor outstanding players at each position. Fukuda and Shimabukuro hurried to C Square from Jingu Stadium, carrying their aspirations with them.

The first round began with a selection by Yakult, the last-place team in the Central League. Selected in quick succession were pitcher Tomohiro Anraku (Saibi Senior High School), who gave an outstanding performance at Koshien Stadium, pitcher Kohei Arihara (Waseda University), who was the ace pitcher at Jingu Stadium, and pitcher Yasuaki Yamasaki (Asia University).

First round selections were finished at 17:35. The names “Shimabukuro” and “Fukuda” had yet to be called.

At 17:56, selections for the second round began with Pacific League champion SoftBank. The audience at Chuo University cheered for Shimabukuro’s name to be called.

Each time the name of another player was read, cries of disbelief could be heard from the audience. “That pitcher hardly every pitched in a game!” “What?! Why would they select him?”—A pitcher who was injured after entering the Tohto League and only pitched in two games during his third year was selected earlier than the Chuo players. Baseball insiders stared at the television monitor with dubious expressions.

Second round selections were finished at 18:03.

The third round began at 18:07. Finally, the announcement “Rakuten: Masayoshi Fukuda, Outfielder, Chuo University” was heard at 18:20. Shimabukuro’s teammate Fukuda, who was a second batter for the Chuo baseball team, had been selected. Fukuda had just arrived at C Square from Jingu Stadium only one minute prior to the announcement.

The audience cheered and applauded. A joint press conference and individual interviews were held for Fukuda.

Tears of joy

From left—pitcher Shimabukuro, coach Ketashiro

As selections began for the fifth round, a press conference was being held at the Chuo University venue for outfielder Fukuda. It was then that SoftBank’s selection of pitcher Shimabukuro was announced. Cheers of joy arose from baseball team members and officials. Everyone in the venue had been waiting for this moment.

It had been a long wait. One hour and thirty seven minutes had passed since the beginning of the draft meeting. After a short while, lefty ace pitcher Shimabukuro appeared and a joint press conference started. Tears could be seen in captain Shimabukuro’s eyes as he sat down behind the microphones.

“It was a relief to hear my name called. I had been preparing myself for the worst imaginable situation.”

It seems that Shimabukuro had almost given up on being selected in the draft. On his right wrist was his good luck charm—two Buddhist rosaries sent from Okinawa.

While attending Konan Senior High School in Okinawa, Shimabukuro’s team became the sixth school in history to win consecutive championships at the spring and summer Koshien Tournaments. Shimabukuro faced high expectations at university and pitched in the opening spring league game as a first-year player. However, his final collegiate record was 12 wins and 20 losses.

“I wasn’t able to pitch winning baseball during my four years at university,” reflected Shimabukuro. “However, I learned a lot during that time. It was a very fulfilling four years. I am thrilled to have been selected by a team which just competed in the Japan Series. It’s an indescribable feeling.”

No one felt greater joy at the selection than student coach Kai Ketashiro, who has been like a brother to Shimabukuro since they were children. Ketashiro wept bitterly over with joy in his seat at the venue when Shimabukuro’s name was called.

Ketashiro’s father had taught baseball to the two boys. At the 2010 Koshien Summer Tournament, Ketashiro produced hit after hit to a batting average of .579. He was the leading batter for the tournament. The combination of Shimabukuro’s pitching and Ketashiro’s batting brought the school consecutive championships at the spring and summer Koshien Tournaments.

“After I was selected, Kai ran up to me with tears of joy in his eyes,” revealed Shimabukuro. Student coach Ketashiro celebrated his friend’s accomplishment as if it was his own—such friendship is enough to make one jealous.

Ketashiro will continue his university studies and acquire teaching certification. He hopes to coach high school baseball in the future.

In response to the selection of captain Shimabukuro, baseball team members could be seen high-fiving and hugging each other in a frenzy of joy. Everyone was thrilled. The exultation showed how much the team loved their captain.

On the conference podium, Shimabukuro and Fukuda were raised on the shoulders of their teammates, and then thrown into the air in jubilation. The celebration ended with a commemorative photograph of the baseball team. It was the last photograph that they would ever take together.

At 20:10, someone shouted for calling for a final meeting of players. Everyone responded quickly.

Captain Shimabukuro addressed the team for the last time: “It’s getting cold, so don’t catch a cold. Make sure you get the sleep you need. We may be leaving the team, but we will always be cheering for you.”

Yosuke Shimabukuro will now begin his career as a professional baseball player. Seemingly unconcerned with the round in which he was selected, Shimabukuro appeared to be genuinely happy to have his dream come true. We hope to see the same smile many times while he plays for the first team of Fukuoka SoftBank.

Student Reporter: Ryoji Nakamura (2nd-year student, Faculty of Commerce)

Third selection by Rakuten: Fukuda fulfills his dream in autumn

Fukuda displayed reliable batting in the autumn league, having his first-ever batting average above .300. (Photograph provided by Chuo University Sports Newspaper; photograph taken by student report Saori Shudo (2nd-year student, Faculty of Economics))

Ever since he was a young child, Fukuda had dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. The moment that his name was called in the draft, everyone in attendance at the Chuo University venue was present.

“I’m so relieved!” responded Fukuda amicably at the subsequent press conference and personal interviews. “I’m thrilled at what I have accomplished.” Tears of joy swelled in his eyes.

Fukuda’s parents came from Sammu City in Chiba Prefecture and were quickly surrounded by reporters. After their son was selected in the draft, the proud parents were quickly thrust into the limelight.

Although Fukuda was smiling, his heart filled with hesitation and complicated emotions.

Fukuda was concerned for captain Shimabukuro of the Chuo University Baseball Team. Although the lefty pitcher also hoped to enter professional baseball, his name had yet to be called.

At that instant, Shimabukuro’s name was called on the television monitor. Upon hearing of his teammate being selected, Fukuda cried almost as hard as Shimabukuro himself. The outpouring of emotion showed the value of teammates and friendship.

Fukuda’s performance in the autumn league put him ahead of the ace pitcher in the eyes of pro teams.

Fukuda had always felt confident about base running and fielding thanks to his speed and strong throwing arm. However, his batting was lackluster. Starting from the summer season, Fukuda gradually increased his amount of practice. He practiced on his own even after team trainings had ended. Fukuda now took 1,000 swings per day—five times the amount he took in the springtime. He continued this intensive practice regimen every day.

Fukuda maintained a batting average above .300 in the Tohto University Autumn Baseball League. It was the first time that he ever achieved such numbers. His twenty hits were a personal record, up from his previous best of thirteen. He also increased a home run by two from zero of his collegiate career. These career records resulted in his second selection for the Best Nine Years. It was a truly fulfilling autumn season.

Bloom where you are planted

From left, Taeko (his mother), outfielder Fukuda, Masaaki (his father)

While on reporting assignment at the Chuo University venue, I was told the following by a school official. “For Fukuda and Shimabukuro, today’s press conference is like an unofficial job offer ceremony.” It was then that I realized that being drafted by a professional team is akin to normal students receiving an unofficial job offer.

Personally, I am a fourth-year student and I still remember when I first received an unofficial job offer. Just like Fukuda and Shimabukuro, I cried when I received an offer from my first-choice corporation.

Immediately after being drafted, a teary-eyed Fukuda spoke of his resolve toward taking on the next challenge of playing professional. As I watched this scene unfold, I remember that I cried with joy upon receiving an unofficial job offer, and the same tears contained my resolve toward succeeding in a turbulent working society. I felt satisfied regarding the similarities between being drafted and receiving a job offer.

Professional baseball revolves at a cycle which is faster than normal working society. Although the two Chuo athletes had fulfilled their dream, there was no time for them to feel at ease. In professional baseball, high school graduates have about five years and university graduates have about three years to show they can perform before incurring the risk of being discharged. The clock was already ticking for Fukuda and Shimabukuro.

Major leaguer Ichiro was drafted in the fourth round by Orix, but his subsequent outstanding achievements are now common knowledge.

I hope that Shimabukuro and Fukuda will both become great players. I will also work my hardest to contribute in society. We must follow the saying, “bloom where you are planted.”

Student reporter: Rika Isaka (4th-year student at Faculty of Law)

Drafted in the seventh round by Chunichi

Also selected during the draft was Issei Endo (25), a Chuo University graduate currently playing in a baseball tournament between non-professional corporate teams.

Endo played at Komaba Gakuen High School before entering Chuo University. After graduation, he started playing for Tokyo Gas and has also represented Japan in the Asian Games. He contributed to his team advancing to the final four in the Intercity Baseball Tournament. Endo was selected as MVP during the 2013 National Series and the 2014 Intercity Baseball Tournament. He is viewed as having become a better player after graduating from university, and is expected to contribute immediately to Chunichi.

Long-awaited visits to drafted players
Rakuten and Softbank visit Chuo University and meet players for the first time in the President’s Office

After the NPB draft, Rakuten and Softbank representatives visited Chuo University on October 30 in order to greet Fukuda and Shimabukuro.

Chief Nagayama (right) presents pitcher Shimabukuro with a card signed by Chairman Oh

The visit took place on the first day of the Tama Campus Hakumon Festival. The song being played on the main stage by the Pop-Com Performing Club could be heard in the President’s Office. The Rakuten representatives were led by Isao Fukuda, Assistant Manager of the Scouting Division at the team’s Head Office. “University festivals are great.” said Assistant Manager Fukuda with a smile. In contrast, third-round selection Fukuda stood rigid and was nervous throughout the meeting.

 President Fukuhara (university president at that time):“What caught your eye about outfielder Fukuda?”

 Fukuda (Rakuten): “He’s fast and athletic. He displayed the ability to play team baseball and advance runners during the autumn season. We also like his energy.”

 President Fukuhara:”He definitely has the appearance of a pro player. He really led our team during the autumn league.”

In order to take advantage of his speed, Fukuda’s place in the batting order changed during the autumn league. He shifted from third batter to second batter. As he concentrated on advancing runners on base, his batting became more reliable.

 Outfielder Fukuda after moving to the conference room: ”My selection felt like a dream on the day of the draft. However, upon meeting with team representatives, I finally feel like my career has begun. My strength as a player is my speed in batting and fielding. Batting may have its ups and downs, but there are no slumps when it comes to base-running. I want to become a core player for our team. The first thing I will do is to greet pitcher Mima, a Chuo graduate.”

Pitcher Manabu Mima was MVP of the 2013 Japan Series. An outstanding Chuo graduate awaits Fukuda.

 President Fukuhara:“Shimabukuro is really throwing well recently. I hope that Rakuten will continue to oversee his development.”

 Masaru Nagayama, Chief of Amateur Scouting Division:”Left-handed pitchers have opportunities as starters, relievers and closer. Shimabukuro practices hard and I’m sure that entering SoftBank will bring out his inherent ability. We take care of and train him with responsibility.

 Pitcher Shimabukuro after moving to the conference room: ”I’m really looking forward to joining SoftBank after meeting with team representatives. I was so happy to receive a signed message of encouragement from Chairman Oh. I want to get stronger and become a pitcher who is trusted by the coaching staff. It won’t be easy, but I’m ready to give it everything I have.”

A total of thirteen players were drafted by Softbank in the same year as Shimabukuro, including eight players under a player development contract. Furthermore, ten of the draftees are high school graduates. Shimabukuro has accumulated experience in big games since he was in high school, and has been designated as captain of rookies by SoftBank. This shows how his mental fortitude and leadership abilities were also highly regarded in the draft.

[More Information]
Height Weight
Fukuda ¥55 million ¥10 million 24 174 76
Shimabukuro ¥40 million ¥8 million 39 173 71
Fukuda Right/
Apr. 17 Narashino Commerce/
Marketing and Trade
Shimabukuro Left/
Oct. 24 Konan Commerce/
Business Administration

*Monetary amounts are estimated.

I will enter Rakuten as a team employee.

Ayako Tsutsumi
Baseball Team Manager

The gathering of reporters was surprised to learn that Ayako Tsutumi (4th year, Faculty of Letters), who attended the press conference in her role as manager of the Chuo University Baseball Team, will enter the Rakuten Baseball Team (Sendai City) as a team employee. Her employment at Rakuten will start at the same time as Rakuten’s third-round draft pick Fukuda.

While studying at Tokyo’s Shukutoku Sugamo High School, Ayako spent one year studying abroad in Oregon (USA) in order to improve her English proficiency. When first searching for employment, she was interested in utilizing her English skills, through employment at foreign corporations or a sportswear manufacturer, which headquartered in the U.S.A.

While watching television one day, Ayako learned about the career of President Yozo Tachibana (43) of the Rakuten Baseball Team. Tachibana had played rugby while attending Keio University and worked on the frontline of a foreign business corporation. Although Tachibana has relatively few baseball connections, his aggressive style has paved the way for the future of Japanese professional baseball since he assumed the position of team President in August 2012. When joining the team, Rakuten was floundering and ranked fifth in the league. Even so, Tachibana was not shy about expressing his hopes for the future at all: “The chance of winning the Pacific League is one in six—it shouldn’t be that difficult.”

Tachibana aggressively pursued big-name foreign players. Thanks to the instruction of Manager Senichi Hoshino, younger players and established veterans learned to play together effectively. Then, in autumn 2013, the dream became a reality. Only nine years after its founding, the team celebrated its first Japan Series championship together with fans who had suffered through the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Manager Ayako announces a game (photograph provided by Ayako Tsutsumi)

Ayako, who had also served as Chairperson of the Chuo University Association of Student Clubs, greatly admired how Tachibana played a leading role in baseball despite having a background in other sports. Her respect for Tachibana combined with her long-felt desire to pursue a career related to baseball. “I was drawn to Rakuten as a new team which embraces change,” she says. Ayako received a job offer from Rakuten in July. “I want to connect players and fans through my work,” she explained when discussing her dream. “In the future, I hope to become involved in strategic team management.”

“Looks like my good luck rubbed off on Fukuda,” joked Tsutsumi to Fukuda, who was drafted by Rakuten in the third round.” Officials also jokingly encouraged Ayako: “Someday, you may become a team executive and decide Fukuda’s salary!” However, considering how hard Ayako works, that day may be sooner than anyone expects.

First work as a scout was drafting pitcher Shimabukuro

Atsushi Fukumoto, SoftBank
Former member of the Chuo University Baseball Team

There was yet another person who attended the press conference with pride. The television camera zoomed in on the satisfied expression of SoftBank scout Atsushi Fukumoto (31), who stood in front of a red and white Chuo University board.

Fukumoto just retired as a player last December and recently assumed the job of scout. His first work was to analyze pitcher Shimabukuro and handle his drafting.

Scout Fukumoto smiles as he places a SoftBank hat on the head of pitcher Shimabukuro

Following the Nippon Professional Baseball draft, Fukumoto visited Chuo University on October 31 to meet with Shimabukuro. He was commended for this hard work by President Fukuhara who asked Chief Masaru Nagayama to look after Fukumoto as he embarked on his career in scouting.

Fukumoto started to focus on Chuo University from January. He observed the players in spring camp held in Miyazaki in February, preseason games, Tohto University Spring League games, summer training camp, and Autumn League games. He watched every single Chuo University game from behind the back net at Jingu Stadium.

Fukumoto worried about Shimabukuro’s progress. We waited patiently for the struggling ace to regain his form. Despite being the ace pitcher for only the sixth high school in history to win consecutive championships at the spring and summer Koshien Baseball Tournaments, Shimabukuro was unable to perform up to expectations at university. “Despite Shimabukuro’s struggles, Fukumoto was adamant that we select him in the draft,” noted Chief Nagayama. If it weren’t for Fukumoto’s vote of confidence, Shimabukuro may have fallen further in the draft.

“Shimabukuro may have struggled at university, but a pitcher with his ability is sure to perform in the pros,” explained Fukumoto. “He’s also a popular player. When meeting with him, I congratulated him on joining our team and encouraged him to work hard.”

Although Fukumoto now works as a scout, he isn’t far removed from his days as a player. He empathizes with Shimabukuro’s feelings of hope and uneasiness upon entering the professional ranks. The two Chuo graduates will now work together as they strive for success.

Fukumoto entered Chuo University from Funabashi Municipal High School in Chiba Prefecture. During his third year at university, he batted fifth and played first base for the team which won the autumn league championship in 2004. Fukumoto was able to play any position in the infield or outfield. As a batter, he was heart of the order together with Yoshiyuki Kamei (now playing for the Yomiuri Giants), who was a fourth-year student at the time. He was selected to the Best Nine in spring of 2005.

After graduating from Chuo University, Fukumoto played for the NOMO Baseball Club, a corporate team. He was then drafted by the Yomiuri Giants under a player development contract. After joining SoftBank, he was promoted to the first team in May 2013. During a game against the Hanshin Tigers during interleague play (Koshien Stadium), he hit his first RBI and was selected for the postgame interview due to outstanding play on both offense and defense.

This year marked the first season for Fukumoto after changing his uniform into a suit. “I’m very happy to have been able to draft a player from Chuo University as part of my first assignment,” he said. “It’s a memory that will last a lifetime.”

When visiting Chuo University to greet Shimabukuro, Fukumoto moved busily throughout the campus. After finishing all of his business for the day, the team badge attached to Fukumoto’s suit had shifted out of place. A Chuo baseball official noticed this and straightened the badge. Fukumoto will now pass on to Shimabukuro the kindness and care which he received from Chuo.

Chuo Graduate currently playing professional baseball in Japan
Year of Entry Name Team Draft
2001 Shinosuke Abe Giants (Catcher) 1
2005 Yoshiyuki Kamei Giants (Outfielder) 4
2007 Ryohei Isaka Rakuten (Pitcher) 3 (Sumitomo Metal Kashima)
Masato Nakazawa Yakult (Pitcher) 1 (Toyota Motor Corporation)
2008 Kazuya Murata Nippon Ham (Outfielder) 4 <University/Corporate Team Draft>
2009 Manabu Mima Rakuten (Pitcher) 2 (Tokyo Gas)
2011 Hirokazu Sawamura (Giants) Pitcher 1
2012 Seiya Inoue Lotte (Infielder) 5 (Nippon Life Insurance Company)
2013 Yohei Kagiya Nippon Ham (Pitcher) 3

Note) The number for the “Draft” column indicates the round in which the player was drafted. Affiliation with corporate teams is listed in parenthesis, and players taken in the University/Corporate Team draft are listed in brackets (<>).