I mention from time to time that there's very few opportunities for "pre-rookie" cards in Japan. This has to do with the way NPB teams structure their rosters and run their farm team. Think about the way a new player enters into an MLB team's organization. Typically the player is drafted in June, signs and is assigned to a minor league team. He may have a baseball card in the team set issued by that minor team, a Bowman set or a minor league set issued by either Topps or Panini. None of these are necessarily classified as his "rookie" card - that term is reserved for his first card in a "flagship" set once he reaches the major leagues. The other cards are generally referred to as "pre-rookie" cards.
In Japan however a player typically enters into an NPB team's organization by being drafted in October or November. They are assigned to the team's 70 man roster which is split between the top team (ichi-gun) and farm team (ni-gun). At a minimum BBM will issue cards for the player in the Rookie Edition set in February and the 1st Version set in April as well as the "comprehensive" team set for the team. All of these are considered "rookie" cards for the player. There are no separate team sets for the team's farm team - it simply doesn't make any sense to do that.
There are some cases where their have been "pre-rookie" cards in Japan. The 2000 Upper Deck Olympic Baseball team set included a handful of industrial league players who went on to play in NPB - the big names being Shunsuke Watanabe, Toshiya Sugiuchi and Norihiro Akahoshi. I know of at least one player drafted from the Shikoku Island League who had a card with his team there - Katsuya Kakunaka of the Marines. Both Upper Deck and Panini have issued memorabilia cards for the Japanese National Collegiate team. But the biggest example of "pre-rookie" cards in Japan are the eleven collegiate sets that BBM did between 2008 and 2013.
The first of these sets - the 2008 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version set - was issued a little over 10 years ago now and I thought it might be interesting to take a look at where all the players in the set are now. Of course, that's a bit daunting of a task. The set contained 60 cards - 54 player cards (9 per team) plus six team cards. Only eight of those 54 players went into NPB. I was going to try to figure out if any of the rest of the players had played in the independent or corporate leagues but I realized that I didn't have any way to figure that out. So I went to the one person I knew who knows a lot about collegiate baseball in Japan - Deanna Rubin - and asked her if she knew of anything like an alumni website for the players but she didn't think there was anything. She pointed out to me that after 10 years it was unlikely that any of them would still be playing in indy ball or the corporate leagues and that the Tokyo University guys likely didn't keep on playing (there have only been six Tokyo graduates to play in NPB). So I decided it would be best to concentrate on the eight players who ended up in NPB.
Of these eight players, seven of them went directly to NPB from college. The other played in the industrial leagues before getting drafted. Only three of the players are still active in NPB although two others are still playing in the industrial leagues (or at least were as of last year). Two players are now coaches for NPB teams. Here's a summary of the players:
|Kazuhito Futagami||Hosei||3||2009 Tigers 1st||Played for Tigers 2010-16|
|Takeshi Hosoyamada||Waseda||4||2008 Baystars 4th||Played for Baystars 2009-13, Hawks 2014-15. Was released by DeNA after 2013 and joined Hawks as ikusei player. Made the Hawks' 70 man roster at the beginning of the 2015 season. Played for Toyota after leaving Hawks|
|Shinji Iwata||Meiji||4||2008 Dragons 5th||Played for Dragons 2009-16. Dragons minor league pitching coach starting in 2018|
|Takeshi Komatsu||Hosei||4||2008 Carp 3rd||Played for Carp 2009-13. Was on Carp's ikusei squad in 2013 and was "dispatched" to the Tokoshima Indigo Sox of the Shikoku Island League that year. Minor league coach for the Carp starting in 2018|
|Kenjiro Matsumoto||Waseda||4||2008 Baystars 1st||Played for Baystars 2009-17. Joined Nippon Steel Sumikin Kazusa Magic in 2018|
|Kota Suda||Waseda||4||2010 Baystars 1st||Played for JFE East Japan after graduating before being drafted. Played for Baystars 2011-present|
|Kenji Tomura||Rikkio||3||2009 Eagles 1st||Played for Eagles 2010-present|
|Hiroki Uemoto||Waseda||4||2008 Tigers 3rd||Played for Tigers 2009-present|
Here's each player's card from the set plus a card of them with their NPB team - I tried to get the most recent card I had for them which isn't necessarily the most recent card they have:
|2008 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #31|
|2016 BBM Tigers #T30|
|2008 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #4|
|2015 BBM 2nd Version #338|
|2008 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #11|
|2017 BBM Farewell #35|
|2008 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #29|
|2010 BBM 1st Version #154|
|2008 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #9|
|2017 BBM Baystars #DB67|
|2008 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #2|
|2017 BBM 2nd Version #520|
|2008 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #39|
|2017 BBM Eagles #E11|
|2008 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #1|
|2018 Calbee #043|
The other 17 players appeared in other collegiate sets - Kosuke Aizawa (Keio), Hiroshi Aoyama (Keio), Hirata Furugata (Tokyo), Shohei Hamada (Tokyo), Daisuke Ikarashi (Rikkio), Shuhei Ishikawa (Hosei), Daisuke Kajimoto (Keio), Junpei Komichi (Meiji), Takeru Maehara (Tokyo), Nobuaki Nakabayashi (Keio), Reo Nakayama (Rikkio), Masahito Nihira (Rikkio), Kazuki Nishijima (Meiji), Takahiro Ohtsubo (Tokyo), Yuichi Suzuki (Tokyo), Takeyasu Takahashi (Tokyo) and Shota Waizumi (Hosei).
By the way, you might remember that I tried something like this five years ago. I only did it for the 2008 collegiate sets and I didn't like the results very well so I didn't continue it. I figure I've got all my cards in a database now which makes it easier to track who's got cards in other sets. And it's easier to look back from ten years than from five years. My plan is to continue this with BBM's other collegiate sets as they reach the 10 year old mark - so there's at least one post I'll be doing in 2023!