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Dodgers sign Japanese college pitcher Boothe to Minor League contract
12/03/2007 5:58 PM ET
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers announced today that they have signed right-handed pitcher Robert Boothe to a minor league contract.

"We feel Robert has a good chance to become an effective Major League pitcher," said Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti. "Our scouting department has followed Robert for a couple of years and his signing reaffirms our commitment to reaching out worldwide to find players. It is difficult to sign amateur players out of Japan and we are excited at this signing's historical significance."

Boothe, 21, attended Asia University and was sought after by as many as five teams in the recent Japanese Professional Baseball draft. He was a member of the All-Japan College All-Star Team that played in Holland this summer.

The six-foot, two-inch pitcher was born to an American father and a Japanese mother and has siblings that reside in the United States. He was scouted and signed by Japanese Dodger scout Keiichi Kojima.

"Robert is a quality athlete with a nice delivery, good arm action and a sound mix of breaking pitches which gives him a chance to become a future Major Leaguer," said Assistant General Manager of Scouting, Logan White. "I'm proud of the job Acey Kohrogi and Keiichi Kojima have done in making this a reality."

The Dodgers have a long history with Asia University. From 1961 to 1964, Akihiro "Ike" Ikuhara was the head coach for Asia University. In 1965, Ikuhara moved to America and started working for the Dodgers. He stayed for 27 years and worked in various roles until his passing in 1992. Ikuhara was posthumously inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002 for his role in U.S.-Japan baseball relations. The Asia University baseball team's meeting room is named after Ikuhara. Ikuhara's son-in-law, Kohrogi, is the Dodgers' Director of Asian Operations and has worked for the team since 1995.

The franchise's ties to Japan date back to 1956 when the Dodgers made their first of three tours of the country during the postseason. The relationship has continued over the past five decades in Los Angeles, as the team has been widely credited with starting the influx of talent from Japan to the Major Leagues with the historic signing of Hideo Nomo in 1995. In 2007, 16 Japanese players appeared in a Major League game, including All-Star Dodger closer Takashi Saito.

The Dodgers have retained strong ties to the entire continent of Asia, as Dodger outfielder Chin-Feng Chen became the first Taiwan native to play in the Major Leagues in 2002. In 1994, Chan Ho Park became the first Korean to play in the Major Leagues when he took the mound for Los Angeles while the franchise was also the first in baseball to form a relationship with China, a bond which dates back to 1980.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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