Social team outfielder drafted first overall by Yokohama, tears in his eyes, “I want to surpass my father”
Ryoki Watarai, 21, an outfielder for the Japanese social baseball team ENEOS, applied for the professional baseball draft three years ago but was not selected. Despite batting 4-for-1 and hitting 24 home runs in official games at the prestigious Yokohama High School, which produced the original “monster pitcher” Daisuke Matsuzaka, professional teams turned him down.
Watarai joined Yokohama’s prestigious social baseball team, the Aeneos, to try again. He chose this path because he wanted to get to the pros as soon as possible.
A right-handed hitter who can play third base and outfield defense. In his first year with Aeneos, he was the starting right fielder and stood out with his bat. He was named to the Kanagawa Prefecture Best Nine for his performance in the intercity baseball tournament. In his second year, he batted 4-for-2 with nine RBIs to lead his team to the championship and was named MVP. He exploded for four home runs in five games.
Nippon Professional Baseball’s rookie draft meeting on the 26th. Twelve teams from the Central and Pacific Leagues made first-round selections, with one name standing out. 먹튀검증 The Yokohama BayStars selected Watarai with the first overall pick.
In addition to Yokohama, the Junichi Dragons and Chiba Lotte Marines also selected him first overall. Of the three teams, Yokohama won the lottery for the first pick.
Watarai said, “I’m very happy that Yokohama chose me. I’ve played at Yokohama Stadium many times in high school and with Aeneos. The atmosphere at Yokohama Stadium is great and the fans are very supportive. I am very happy to be able to play baseball in the stadium where I want to play.”
The outfielder, who was ignored by professional teams before graduating from high school, stepped into the spotlight with the No. 1 pick and became a professional player in three years.
Nippon Professional Baseball’s No. 1 pick is usually reserved for college pitchers. All five teams in the Central League, except Yokohama, drafted a college pitcher first, and nine of the 12 teams overall drafted a college student or pitcher first. It is highly unusual for a community baseball team to draft an outfielder first.
This season, Yokohama finished third in the Central League and advanced to the Climax Series (postseason). They played an exhibition game against the second-place Hiroshima Carp before the First Stage. In that game, Watarai had an impressive performance in the field, including a timely double against Yokohama’s starting pitcher.
Yokohama had originally planned to draft a left-handed pitcher with the first overall pick, but may have changed their minds after seeing Watarai in the game, according to Japanese sports publication Sports Nippon.
Watarai’s father is Hirobumi Watarai, 51, a former Yakult Swallows infielder. He was drafted third overall by Yakult and played for 15 years. He was a utility player who played every position except catcher. In 527 career games, he batted .244 with 173 hits, nine home runs, 61 RBIs, and 76 runs scored.
After retiring from the game, he became the front office of the Yakult club, working in public relations, marketing, scouting, and managing the Yakult junior team. Ryoki Watarai also played baseball for Yakult’s junior team, where his father works. His older brother also plays for a social baseball team.
Hirobumi Watarai is said to have gone 7-for-7 against Yokohama manager Daisuke Miura during his career. Miura is a Yokohama pitching legend with 152 career wins. After his son was drafted first overall, he met with Miura for a chat.
“My son would have done more, but I was upset, too,” the father recalled three years ago. I couldn’t talk to him in the car on the way home. I worked hard for three years. I’m grateful to INEOS, the coaches, and the staff. My son said he wanted to be a better athlete than his father, but I wish he had set his sights higher.”