Stewart hopeful others will follow

Carter Stewart not only has high expectations for his next six years in Japan, but he hopes he is the first of many American baseball players to turn pro on this side of the Pacific. On Monday, just hours before Major League Baseball’s June draft that he skipped out in order to sign with the SoftBank Hawks, Stewart met the press in Fukuoka.

“There are a lot of reasons why I wanted to come over here, but a big thing is the atmosphere, the quality of baseball, the facilities,” said at a press conference. “Those are some of the key points, when I got here that showed me they were top notch, that they were high-class grade baseball. That’s the real reason I chose to play over here.”

The opportunity was made possible by the Atlanta Braves lowering their signing bonus offer to him last year and by the huge gap between what MLB teams are willing to pay amateurs up front and what Japanese teams can gain from those players’ services. Japan also offers the possibility that he could enter MLB as a free agent after the 2024 season, at least two years earlier than he could hope to reach that status in the majors.

Instead of watching minor league teammates struggle to exist and survive on sub-poverty wages, Stewart will be among people who are housed and paid relatively well in a structured, clean and safe environment.

“The way with the baseball is now in the States, more amateurs at least should give this a try… Anybody who plays baseball, they want a chance to play high-quality baseball,” he said.

“In the future, I would hope some more amateur players from the U.S. would want to come over here, just because. From what I’ve seen, I only have great things to say. I don’t know if more will follow, but I hope that someday more guys from the States will come.”

Meanwhile, according to Kyodo News, Hawks GM Sugihiko Mikasa denied reports from the United States that Stewart would be able to make use of the posting system to enter MLB prior to the conclusion of his six-year-contract.

Posting Stewart would pose a problem for the Hawks, who have denied the request of their best pitcher, Kodai Senga, to make use of the posting system.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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