7:10 AM ET

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kaito Yuki is headed to the Kansas City Royals organization instead of attending high school in Japan.

The team signed Yuki, a 16-year-old pitcher, out of junior high to a minor league contract Sunday. He is thought to be the first Japanese junior high school player to sign with a major league club.

“I wanted to play in the United States as soon as possible, rather than playing high school ball at Koshien Stadium (in Japan’s iconic national championship),” Yuki said in statement issued by the Royals.

Yuki is listed at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds and his fastball has been clocked at 87-88 mph. He was born on May 12, 2002.

“My goal is to do well in the majors. Not everybody is given that chance, so I want to do my best,” he said at a news conference in his hometown of Osaka.

Yuki has been studying English before his move to the United States. The Royals are optimistic that after paperwork is completed, he will arrive in August at the team’s spring training complex in Surprise, Arizona, to begin familiarizing himself with the local culture and language.

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