From ‘superstar’ to ‘fellow assailant’, Sho Nakata finally has a new destination. He’s headed to the Junichi Dragons, where he’ll be given a full-time opportunity.
“Sho Nakata, who became a free agent (FA) from the Yomiuri Giants, will play for the Junichi Dragons from next year,” multiple local media outlets including Japan’s Junichi Sports reported on Wednesday.
Nakata began his professional career in 2007 when he was selected by the Nippon Ham Fighters in the first round of the Nippon Professional Baseball Draft. After a slow start to his career, Nakata established himself as one of Japan’s leading hitters, hitting 18 home runs in 2011 and 24 arches in 2012.
In 2013, despite playing just 108 games, Nakata hit .305 with an OPS of .932, including 28 arches, and was named the Pacific League Batting Champion in 2014 and 2016. Nippon Ham then acquired Shohei “Idoryu” Otani, and Nakata was one of their best players, winning the Japan Series with Otani.
Nakata’s success led him to international competition, earning his first cap at the 2013 World Baseball Classic (WBC) and representing Japan at the 2015 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 and 2017 WBC. But the fall from superstardom was swift. In 2021, an incident of Nakata assaulting teammates came to light.
Nakata assaulted a teammate in August 2021. According to reports at the time, Nakata was engaged in a conversation with the player when he suddenly threw a punch. Nihon Hamm promptly handed Nakata a severe punishment of an indefinite one- to two-game suspension, and his return to an active uniform seemed unlikely. But that’s where head coach Hideki Kuriyama, best known as Otani’s mentor, came in.
Kuriyama contacted Tatsunori Hara, who was at the helm of Yomiuri at the time, and asked for a trade for Nakata. Of course, Nippon Ham wanted nothing in return for the “troublemaker”. Hara granted Kuriyama’s request, and Nihon Hamm shipped Nakata to Yomiuri for nothing.
Nakata was tearful and remorseful about the assault, as he was happy to leave Nihon Ham and get a fresh start at Yomiuri. Nakata continued his career in Yomiuri, where he struggled mightily immediately after the move. However, he rebounded to hit .269 with 24 home runs and an OPS of .833 in 109 games last year, earning a three-year contract with Yomiuri after the season 캡틴토토 도메인.
Despite a successful rebound in Yomiuri, Nakata decided to leave the team this year, despite hitting .255 with 15 homers and a .770 OPS in 92 games. The reason: he wanted to play more games. Nakata’s spot in the lineup has narrowed dramatically this year after he was sidelined with a thigh injury. This is because Yomiuri has been using Kadoki at third base and Kazuma Okamoto at first base.
In his statement, Nakata expressed his gratitude to Yomiuri, saying, “I am grateful to Yomiuri for giving me the opportunity to play baseball,” but added, “Right now, I am full of desire to be on the field and in the batter’s box. I would be grateful if there was a team that would give me that opportunity. I would like to play at least one more year with my full strength on the field to show my gratitude to everyone who understood my professional baseball career and warmly supported me,” he said in announcing his opt-out.
More than a month after Nakata decided to leave the team via opt-out, he has a destination. Junichi. Japan’s Junichi Sports reported on Wednesday, “Nakata entered into initial negotiations with head coach Kazuyoshi Tatsunami today (March 3). He will sign a two-year contract with an annual salary of 300 million yen (about 2.6 billion won) and wear the number 6 jersey.” Although no official announcement has been made yet, Junichi’s signing is finalized.
The addition of Nakata will help ease the team’s first baseman woes. After Nakata’s signing was confirmed, Tatsunami said, “The club cooperated with us in strengthening the team. We can’t win if we don’t have enough power.” “He’s a player we’ve faced a lot, and he’s done well in the spacious Sapporo Dome. He has good defense at first base and a strong presence.”
While Tomohiro Anraku was recently suspended from the Rakuten Golden Eagles for assaulting and molesting juniors, Nakata will be able to continue his active career.