Tag Archive | "South Korea"

Baseball’s Rise Marked By New Stadiums Worldwide


Press Release IBAF.org

“Our sport has entered into a new era of globalisation.” WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — A fresh wave of planned or recently completed baseball and softball construction projects is set to boost the growing popularity and globalisation of the bat-and-ball sports, as well as local economies, World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) officials reported. The latest developments follow historic growth for baseball and softball across Africa, with first-ever national stadiums erected in Ghana and Uganda in early 2014.

Now, as baseball and softball’s global footprint deepens, new facilities are being rolled out in the Bahamas, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom, in addition to new-builds in mature markets like Mexico — and South Korea and Taiwan, where the first-ever domed baseball stadiums are currently taking shape.

Bahamas 

In 2015, a new national baseball stadium in the Bahamas — Andre Rodgers National Baseball Stadium — will be completed and “heralds rapid expansion of the game of baseball in the Bahamas,” reads a statement posted in November on the official website of the Government of the Bahamas.

Prime Minister of the Bahamas Perry Christie told reporters at the groundbreaking ceremony:”This is a result of the extraordinary progress of baseball in the [Bahamas], without government support, sponsored by people who had an interest, who stimulated young people…to get involved in baseball. We are now talking a benefit to the economy of the Bahamas.”

Government officials in the Bahamas indicate the state-of-the-art facility “will support the nation’s current energies to fully develop its sports tourism.”

Netherlands

Europe’s first state-of-the-art baseball and softball complex just outside Amsterdam in Hoofddorp, Netherlands was inaugurated for the 2014 season and has already hosted its first international competition. As well as attracting major baseball and softball events to the region and providing a new and exciting athlete-/fan-experience, the venue’s strategic location makes it very attractive as a regional training centre to further strengthen the development of baseball and softball in the Netherlands and in Europe.

In 2013, the Royal Dutch Baseball and Softball Association unveiled Europe’s first baseball and softball urban playground. The innovative “urban” concept was rolled out in Rotterdam and aims to take organised baseball and softball to the street, increasing the sports’ pathway and connection with young people in non-traditional settings.

New Zealand

Last month, the Auckland Council unveiled a new crown jewel baseball facility, cited by Auckland city officials as “the first of its kind in New Zealand.” Baseball New Zealand and McLeod Park Baseball Diamond have since been awarded the hosting rights of the U18 Baseball Oceania Championship, which serves as the qualifier for the 2015 U18 WBSC Baseball World Cup. Following McLeod Park’s opening ceremonies, officials in New Zealand have already been assessing the feasibility of building baseball’s first-ever national stadium in New Zealand.

Spain

The Instituto Barcelona Deportes (Barcelona Sports Institute) announced last week that it is set to begin construction on a new sports/community project, including the roll out of a new softball field next to baseball’s Estadio Carlos Perez de Rozas on Pierre de Coubertin Street in Barcelona.

“Sport is fundamental in Barcelona, so we are committed to providing the city with sports facilities necessary to ensure constant sport and of quality,” Deputy Mayor for Quality of Life, Equality and Sports, Ms. Maite Fandos, said in a statement.

South Africa

In a joint venture, the City of Cape Town and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport announced last month the unveiling of the rebuilt Bishop Lavis Softball field, which included laser-levelling of the pitch, installation of irrigation, construction of a backstop and fence, as well as installation of floodlights to hold training and competitions in the evenings.

“We are committed to providing facilities which will encourage communities to participate in sport and will nurture young talent. Sport encourages young people to live healthy and keeps them involved in wholesome activities and off the street,” the Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services, Alderman Belinda Walker, said in a statement.

United Kingdom

Following the first-ever dedicated baseball/softball stadium in the U.K. with Farnham Park Baseball and Softball Complex built last year in Slough, BaseballSoftballUK (BSUK) recently announced plans to build a new baseball and softball facility in Manchester to promote the sports and bolster participation numbers in the North of England. As growth has taken off in the U.K., including the newest facility inaugurated in Essex, John Boyd, BSUK Joint CEO, announced in November a project to expand the Farnham complex to include another international-standard baseball field.

WBSC on Baseball/Softball’s Continued Trend of Global Growth

WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari hailed the wave of initiatives as a major boost for the positioning of baseball and softball as one of the world’s leading global sports, particularly as WBSC and its partners continue working toward a return of baseball and softball in the Olympic Games.

“Our sport has entered into a new era of globalisation,” said the world governing body president. “More and more clubs, communities, cities and nations are investing in the development of baseball and softball because it is being recognised that baseball and softball are proven and popular sporting and fan activities that engage young people across both genders as well as sponsors and broadcasters, and can help to stimulate economies.

“WBSC, our National Federations, our professional league partners and the youth leagues are heavily invested in promoting our sport around the world to attract and reach — and remain relevant to — the next generation of athletes and sport fans, alike. This recognition and support from governmental institutions to help drive growth marks a significant breakthrough for our sport in terms of universality and evolving into a truly global sport.”

Based on data compiled, the WBSC estimates that over 65 million athletes practice the sport of baseball and softball in over 140 countries, with youth and females making up the majority of the participation-demographic.

Copyright © 1999-2014 IBAF . All rights reserved. Permission to cite from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to ibaf.org as the source.

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Korea: KBO Makes Changes to Imports and Will Expand


There are a lot of changes going on in the Korean Baseball Organization that could really change the landscape of the game in the Land of the Morning Calm.

For years now there has been a limit of two foreign players for each team, and over the past few years all of these spots have been taken up by pitchers. However, the league has decided to expand the roster spots for foreign players to three beginning with the 2014 season.  The teams have quickly begun snapping up some former MLB talent to add to their rosters including some position players.

Already signed this off season has been infielder Jorge Cantu by the Doosan Bears, outfielder Felix Pie by the Hanwha Eagles, and infielder/DH Luke Scott by the SK Wyverns.

Another change deals with the foreign players as well as the league is lifting the salary cap on these imports. Previously players were maxed out at a level of $300,000 for a year. Many of the contracts were reported as $250,000 salary with a $50,000 signing bonus. Now that will be lifted and should bring in some bigger talent to the league.

This is the the third time the salary cap has been changed. Initially the cap was at $120,000. It was then raised to $200,000 in 1999 and to $300,000 in 2004.

The third and final change to take place will happen in 2015 when the league expands to 10 teams with the new KT Wiz take the field for the first time. The league currently sits at 9 teams after the NC Dinos joined in last season.

The Samsung Lions will look to defend the three straight titles won over the past few seasons in 2014, but with the addition of some new bats they will be challenged like never before.

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Korea: A Second Racist Incident in a Year for the KBO


Recently there was a racist cartoon published by a group of cartoonists under the pen name of Bounce Kim. The cartoon, published on the site Nate.com, was apart of a weekly series called “Fastball and Jokeball”, but there weren’t many that found it too funny.

The cartoon depicted Dominican pitcher Radhames Liz of the LG Twins being hounded by the Ku Klux Klan.

In a recent game, Liz hit Samsung Lions batter Bae Young-seop in the head which lead to Bae being taken off the field on a stretcher. Later in the inning, after striking out the side, Liz ended the inning with a little hop and fist pump after the last strikeout. Apparently that show of emotion was too much for these cartoonists.

This isn’t the first time there has been a racist incident this year in the KBO. Earlier in the year all-star Kim Tae-kyun apologized after making racist comments about American import Shane Youman who pitches for the Lotte Giants.

From the outside all of this makes the Korean people in general look very racists. And while racism exists in every part of the world, it is not the everyday way of life for Koreans.

Immediately after the cartoon was released, there was an outcry from Koreans that demanded some sort of discipline for the offenders. However, that was not the case as their employer, Nate.com, and the parent company SK Communications have said there will be no discipline taken in the matter.

The cartoon was taken down after only 30 minutes and Bounce Kim did release an apology saying:

“We didn’t have enough knowledge on the subject matter, and we were trying too hard to come up with something new and compelling. More than anything, we fully understand that this was borne out of our sheer stupidity.”

The LG Twins also expressed their desire for the situation not to get escalated and made no official comment on the matter.

Sheer stupidity or not, I don’t understand why the team could not issue a statement to back up its own player. A player who has been with the team since 2011.

You can see the cartoon below.

comic

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Korea: Teams Fight For Playoff Position in KBO


With just a few more weeks to go in the KBO season, the playoff races are still in full force. While the final four teams are almost set, the race for positioning between the teams is in full swing.

Currently the LG Twins lead the league (70-47) bu they are only 1.5 games up over the two-time defending champion Samsung Lions. The Twins are one win away from being secured a spot in the final four which would be the first time they have made the playoffs since 2002. That was also the last time the Twins had a winning record.

Currently in second place are the Samsung Lions (67-47-2). The two-time defending champs are looking to secure their spot once again at the top of the league’s standings.

However, the biggest surprise is the team that is currently in third place, the Nexen Heroes (65-49-2). The Heroes, while they have only been a team since 2008, have their first winning season in team history. So far their best finish has been 6th in 2009 and 2012.

The final playoff team for 2013 looks to be the Doosan Bears. If, or when, the Bears make the playoffs this year it will mark the eighth time in the past ten years they have played in the postseason. However, they haven’t won a title since 2001.

This is also the first season for the NC Dinos after playing last season in the Future’s League, the KBO version of minor league baseball. They have been respectable so far this  year and a lot of that goes to a foreign import, Charles Shirek.

Shirek, who hails from the University of Nebraska, was drafted in the 23rd round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the Chicago White Sox. However, he never did make it to the big leagues getting as far as Triple-A Charlotte in 2012.

After a solid year with the Charlotte Knights, Shirek made his way to Korea and the NC Dinos. So far he has been nothing short of spectacular. In 27 games this season, Shirek has pitched 176.2 innings. He has posted a nearly 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio (105/57) and a 2.39 ERA which leads the league. Perhaps the biggest key to his success has been keeping the ball in the yard. Through his 27 starts so far this year he has given up just five home runs.

KBO Standings:

1. LG Twins 70-47
2. Samsung Lions 67-47-2
3. Nexen Heroes 65-49-2
4. Doosan Bears 65-50-3
5. Lotte Giants 56-55-4
6. SK Wyverns 56-56-2
7. KIA Tigers 48-64-2
8. NC Dinos 48-67-4
9. Hanwha Eagles 37-77-1

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Korea: Baseball Hall of Fame to be Built in Busan


According to a report by Busan Haps, the city of Busan and the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) have agreed to build a Korea Baseball Museum and Korea Baseball Hall of Fame.

An entire ‘Baseball Theme Park” will be build including a three-story building, four regular baseball fields, two Little League fields, one softball field, an indoor baseball practice field, and a baseball experience hall.

In the three-story building there will be many attractions comprising 3,374 square meters (36,317 sq ft). The first floor will be composed of a multi-purpose hall, video room, and a library of foreign player stats. An amateur baseball center, a professional baseball center, and a lecture room will be on the second floor. Finally, the third floor will include the hall of fame and a conference hall. The building will also feature a roof top garden.

Hyundai Motor Corp has agreed to donate the four regular sized baseball fields for the project.

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Korean Player Apologizes for Racist Remarks Made Toward American Import


South Korean baseball All-Star Kim Tae-kyun recently apologized for insensitive remarks he made during a baseball radio show according to Yonhap News reporter Yoo Jee-ho.

In an interview that aired Monday on Radio Ball, a Naver Internet radio show, the Hanwha Eagles slugger was asked about facing Shane Youman of the Lotte Giants who is considered one of the toughest pitchers in the league. Kim apparently replied that, “Youman’s face is so black and that makes his teeth seem whiter. When he smiles on the mound as he throws, I tend to lose the ball in his teeth. That has fooled me often.”

Kim did not make those remarks on the air, but instead they were repeated by the show’s host from what Kim had told him. Regardless, there has been an uproar for Kim to apologize, and that is just what he did hours after the broadcast when he issued this statement through the Eagles:

“Regardless of the truth of the comments, I’d like to offer Youman my apology,” Kim was quoted as saying by the team. “I had meant to tell the reporter that Youman’s delivery makes him a difficult pitcher to hit against from a hitter’s perspective, and that he’s a great player.”

Kim has experience playing in a foreign league after spending the 2010 and parts of the 2011 seasons with the Chiba Lotte Marines, ironically the same company that owns the Lotte Giants that Youman plays for in Korea. The KBO has allowed imported players since 1998, and many African-Americans have played there including the first foreign MVP Tyrone Woods.

Youman spoke with the news outlet Busan Haps in response to Kim’s remarks and had this to say:

“After hearing about Kim Tae-kyun from my translator initially I laughed, and said it was ok, not a problem, people make mistakes. After I thought about it for a bit, I became a little upset which is the initial reaction from someone who hears about something that’s potentially racist towards them. No matter your ethnic background, you will either feel hurt, anger, or both when it comes to racism towards you.

As far as being here in Korea, I’ve never felt that my race, or nationality has played a role in how I’ve been treated. Then again, I’d never know, because I don’t speak Korean (lol).”

You can read more of Youman’s response here at BusanHaps.com.

Only time will tell if this story dies down and goes away. I have seen many post on different message boards that this might have been a cultural misunderstanding and that Kim didn’t mean anything harmful by it. However, had this been a foreign player commenting on a Korean player it would have stirred up a hornet’s nest that might never go away.

The question I am waiting to be answered, is will Kim be fined or suspended at all. What are your thoughts on this?

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Korea: KBO Opening Day Recap; Doosan Belts a Pair of Grand Slams in Win over Samsung


The Korean Baseball Organization kicked off its 2013 season on Saturday afternoon with eight of the nine teams competing. The one team not in action on Saturday was the newest team the NC Dinos. They will open their season on Tuesday April 2 against the Lotte Giants.

Six foreign pitchers started on Saturday with two of the four games featuring opposing foreigners starting for their respective teams. Here is a rundown of the games from Opening Day in the KBO.

Hanwha Eagles 5, Lotte Giants 6

The Hanwha Eagles are starting their season without their former ace Ryu Hyun-jin who is now with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but what they were needing on Saturday was a closer.

Denny Bautista got the start for Hanwha with the absence of Ryu to the USA. Bautista, who pitched in 44 games with Hanwhat last season going 4-6 with 8 saves, tossed five innings on Saturday giving up three runs in the process giving up four hits along the way. He left the game with the chance to win, but that was quickly taken away as the bullpen gave up the lead.

Hanwha jumped out to a four run lead after scoring two runs in both the third and fourth innings. Lotte battled back to tie the game with a three run sixth inning. The Eagles offense pounded out 11 hits in the game and took a one run lead in the seventh inning and held onto it heading into the bottom of the ninth.

Lotte faced an uphill climb in the bottom of the ninth before their home crowd. Trailing by a run and facing closer Ahn Seung-min who had 16 saves in 2012. However, Ahn loaded the bases and gave up the tying run when Chang Song-ho looped a ball over the infield into left for a single. Then, still with only one out, Park Jong-yoon drove a ball into deep center field to bring home the winning run for Lotte.

LG Twins 7, SK Wyverns 4

Former Atlanta Brave Jo-Jo Reyes got his first KBO start for the SK Wyverns on Saturday. He faced off with the Twins Radhames Liz who went 5-12 last season with LG.

Reyes was going strong early on not giving up a hit till late in the game. When he was pulled his line read 7.1 innings pitched, three hits, four runs (three earned), and nine strike outs.

LG had trailed most of the game unable to solve Reyes, but they finally got the bats going in the eighth inning when they scored five runs.

SK broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the seventh on a Cho Sung-woo two-run home run. But the lead was short-lived.

In the top of the eighth, the Twins stormed back with five runs. The big blow came from Jeong Seong-hoon who hit a grand slam to cap off a five-run inning. Lee Jae-young walked in the first run to make it 4-3. The next hitter, Jeong, took a high and inside fastball from Lee and sent it out over the left field wall for the home run.

Lee Jae-young would take the loss for SK. Yoo Wan-Sang got the win in relief for LG with Bong Jung-keun picking up his first save of the year.

Doosan Bears 9, Samsung Lions 4

The two-time defending champion Samsung Lions got off to a slow start on Saturday losing their home opener to the Bears 9-4.

Former Texas Rangers pitcher Dustin Nippert got the start for Doosan coming back for another year after finishing the 2012 season with an 11-10 record and an ERA of 3.20. He would toss six innings giving up four runs (three earned) to pick up the win for Doosan.

Bae Young-soo got the start for Samsung. In 2012, he went 12-8 with an ERA of 3.21. However, he got off to a poor start on Saturday in Daegu giving up eight earned runs in just 3.2 innings taking the loss.

The Bears jumped out to a 4-0 lead after a half inning. They would score four more runs in the fourth giving them an 8-3 lead. Bae gave up a pair of home runs before being pulled. The first came in the bottom of the first inning when Oh Jae-won hit an opposite field grand slam to get the scoring started. The second came in the top of the fourth. Again the Bears loaded the bases against Bae. This time is was Kim Hyun-soo that would come through with the big blow. Again Bae gave up a grand slam making the score 8-3.

Trailing 4-0 after a half inning, the Lions stormed back in the bottom of the inning scoring three runs off of Nippert. Choi Hyung-woo singled in a run and was driven in on Park Seok-min’s two-run home run down the left field line.

Samsung would pick up another run in the fifth inning, but never posed a threat to the Bears big lead.

Nexen Heroes 9, Kia Tigers 10

Again two foreign imports got the start against one another. Brandon Knight, who had a great year in 2012 going 16-4 with a 2.20 ERA,  started for Nexen. He would go up against the Tigers Henry Sosa who finished 2012 9-8 with a 3.54 ERA.

Neither fared as well as they did in 2012. Knight pitched five innings giving up four runs on seven hits. Sosa didn’t do much better also pitching five innings giving up four runs (3 earned) on eight hits. It was a day for offense in Gwangju.

Nexen jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two innings, but the see-saw battle had the teams exchanging leads. The Heroes loaded the bases in the second inning on two hits and a walk. Then Seo Geon-chang came through with a single just out of the reach of the Tigers second baseman giving Nexen a 1-0 lead. Nexen got two  more runs when the Tigers shortstop threw the ball away on a double play attempt allowing two runs to score on the play.

Kia came right back in the bottom of the third with a two-out rally. Lee Bum-ho got the rally started with a single. He would come around to score on a double off the center field wall by Na Ji-wan. Choi Hee-seop followed him up with a double of his own to left off the base of the wall to score Na.

Kia got another run in the fourth and fifth to tie the game at four. After another two runs in the sixth on a Na Ji-wan two-run home run, Kia led 6-4. That’s when it really got interesting.

Nexen took a 9-6 lead after a five-run seventh inning. The scoring was capped by a long two-run home run from Lee Sung-yeol. But it didn’t take long for the Heroes bullpen to give up the lead.

It all started in the bottom of the seventh with two outs. Cah Il-mok was hit by a pitch. A single and a walk loaded the bases for Kim Jo0-chan who came through with a two-run single. After a walk to Lee Bum-ho, Na Ji-wan once again came up big with a two-run single to left to give Kia the lead 10-9.

Anthony Lerew came in to earn the save for Kia, but it wasn’t without a little drama. Lerew game up two straight singles, but a nice defensive play by the Tigers defense threw out one runner trying to advance on a throw. However, with one out Nexen had a runner at third base. Lerew then struck out the next batter and induced a foul pop out to third to end the game.

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Korea: Chris Oxspring Signs with Lotte Giants


Jeeho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency has reported that Chris Oxspring will replace the injured Scott Richmond for the 2013 season with the Lotte Giants. The Australian native is returning to Korea after pitching for the LG Twins from 2007-2008.

Oxspring will join fellow foreign import Shane Youman in the Giants rotation.

 

Oxspring was signed by the San Diego Padres in 2000 as a free agent and made it to the Major Leagues with the Padres in 2005. Chris pitched in five games that season pitching 12.0 innings of relief work. Before and after that he has bounced around the minor leagues for several organizations.

He also pitched a year in Japan with the Hanshin Tigers in addition to his previous time in Korea. Being an Australian native, he has also pitched in the Australian Baseball League since its reemergence in 2010.

In the 2012-2013 season, Oxspring went 4-2 with a 2.71 ERA over 12 starts for the Sydney Blue Sox of the ABL. He also pitched for Team Australia in the recent World Baseball Classic. He tossed 7.2 innings for Team Australia, including one start, losing a game and compiling a 3.52 ERA.

 

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WBC: Korea Wins but Eliminated


Korea Eliminated Despite Win Over Chinese Taipei

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

With excitement befitting of the stakes at hand, Korea and Chinese Taipei battled for the right to advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic.Fourth-ranked Korea used a dramatic eighth inning to earn a 3-2 victory, but it was the host, Chinese Taipei, who advanced via tiebreaker rules. It is fifth-rated Chinese Taipei’s first-ever second round appearance, while Korea, which has the most wins in WBC history, had never failed to advance.

Chinese Taipei, Korea, and the Netherlands all finished 2-1 in the pool, so a tiebreaker was necessary to determine the two teams that would move on to Tokyo. Using a complicated formula involving run differential, it was determined that Chinese Taipei was more deserving to join Cuba, Japan, and the Dutch in the second round.

Both teams threatened throughout the game, which featured only a single 1-2-3 inning per side. Each manager used his game liberally as the tension mounted throughout the game.

Chinese Taipei was the first to take advantage of their runners on base. Dai-Kang Yang led off the third with an infield single, though Korean starter Won-Jun Chang got the next two batters, including a bunting Che-Hsuan Lin, who plays for the Houston Astros. But with two outs, Chih-Sheng Lin, Chinese Taipei’s cleanup hitter, stroked a single to centre to plate Yang. Szu-Chih Chou followed with a single, but Chang struck out Yung-Chi Chen, hero of the 2006 WBC.

The hosts added another run an inning later. Yen-Wen Kuo ripped a two-out double into the right field corner. After Kyung-Eun Noh relieved, Yang stroked a single over the mound to plate Kuo and give Chinese Taipei a 2-0 advantage.

After loading the sacks and failing to score in the fourth, Korea came very close to finally putting a run on the scoreboard in the fifth. Keun-Woo Jeong reached on a fielding error with one out and, two batters later, cleanup hitter Dae-ho Lee, who hit .455 for the tournament, stepped up to the plate.

Lee launched a ball into the alley in right centre and Jeong raced around the bases, but Lin sent a good throw in from centre that was cut off by Kuo, who fired the ball to catcher Chih-kang Kao as Jeong reached the plate. Kao planted himself firmly over the plate as he caught the ball, and Jeong barrelled into him.

Chinese Taipei’s catcher held steady and Jeong was out, failing to even touch the plate. It was the second time Jeong was cut down on the basepaths, as in the first inning he tried to advance to third after stealing second with a wild throw and was out 8-5.

Korea’s second reliever, Hee-Soo Park, continued where he had left off in the fifth and retired Chinese Taipei 1-2-3 to give Korea a quick chance to threaten again. Ching-Lung Lo entered for Chinese Taipei, though, and got two strikeouts to continue the shutout for Chinese Taipei.

Neither team got a safety in the seventh and Chinese Taipei got nothing out of a hit in the eighth. In the bottom of the frame, Chinese Taipei’s manager, Chang-Heng Hsieh, sent in setup man Hong-ChihKuo to get the ball to his closer.

After failing to create much momentum on offence throughout the game despite 10 baserunners, Korea finally got firing on all cylinders. Kuo, a seven-year MLB veteran, gave up a ground rule double to Seung-Yeop Lee to lead off the frame. It was his third double in as many games. Lee moved to third on a passed ball and, with no outs, the Blue Bogy finally had a rally going.

Dae-Ho Lee drove his man home with a safety to left, but Kuo buckled down and got the next two outs. It appeared that the southpaw would get out of the inning with the 2-1 lead intact, but Jung-Ho Kang took Kuo deep to left field, with the four-bagger landing well over the wall.

Kuo struck out the final batter to ensure that Korea would not advance in spite of the win. Chinese Taipei’s arch-rivals had to win by at least five runs to advance, so the home run gave Korea nothing but a bit of pride after Seung-Hwan Oh got the last three outs for the save.

Chinese Taipei out-hit the blue-and-white 9-8, but left nine runners on base. They were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. Yang was the only hitter from Chinese Taipei with two hits and only Chou also reached base twice.

Korea also stranded nine baserunners, though they had only three reach scoring position. Kang and Dae-Ho Lee both recorded a brace of hits. Jeong walked twice and had Korea’s only stolen base.

Four hurlers toed the rubber for the loser. Yao-Hsun Yang started and threw 2 2/3 frames, working around three baserunners. He struck out one. Ching-Ming Wang hurled 2 1/3 innings, going unscathed despite three hits and a walk with no strikeouts. Lo had the strongest outing, striking out two in two frames. Kuo was the final pitcher.

Korea’s manager Joong-Il Ryu went to the ‘pen more liberally, sending six pitchers to the mound. Chang tossed 3 2/3, allowing six of Chinese Taipei’s nine hits and both of their runs. He struck out a pair. Won-Sam Jang earned the victory in relief, throwing a scoreless eighth. Oh whiffed two in a perfect ninth.

Korea qualifies for the 2017 Classic, but will drop from the No. 4 position in the world rankings. Korea is now 14-5 in WBC history. By virtue of their defeat of the Netherlands, Chinese Taipei is the Pool B winner and will face No. 3 Japan, who finished second in Pool A. After going 1-4 in the two previous Classics, Chinese Taipei is 5-1 in all rounds of the 2013 edition.

The two sides will face off in the Tokyo Dome on Mar. 8 at 10 a.m. GMT. Chinese Taipei will be the home team. Stay tuned for news, reviews, and analysis of this year’s WBC.

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WBC: Korea Shuts Out Australia to Keep Hopes Alive for Second Round


Song Delivers as Korea Shuts Out Australia

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)

Korea scored three runs in the first inning against Australia and Seung Song made the advantage stand up in a 6-0 victory over punchless Australia. The Blue Bogy was much more effective on defence and received the timely hits they were missing against the Netherlands two days prior.

Song utilised a filthy splitter to keep the Baseballroos swinging on pitches out of the zone, striking out five and scattering four baserunners in four innings. He retired six in-a-row late in his outing.

The Korean lineup gave him a 3-0 advantage before he ever took the mound as the first seven batters of the inning reached base. Seung-Yeop Lee ripped a double in the inning and Hyun-Soo Kim had a two-run single against Ryan Searle, who walked two and hit one in the frame.

Korea was back at it again in the second. Yong-Kyu Lee started things off with a single to left and came around on another two-bagger by Lee. Searle got out of the inning, but the four-run advantage was too much for an Australian offence that failed to put a rally in motion throughout the game.

Searle struggled through three innings before giving way to Steven Kent, who pitched two strong innings. The left-hander gave up only one hit to Dae-Ho Lee, erasing the slugger on a double play. He struck out one.

Australia had its best chance in the fifth inning. Tim Kennelly worked a seven-pitch at bat for a double, but Allan de San Miguel struck out after working a 3-0 count. James Beresford then blooped a hit to left centre, but Kennelly could not advance and reliever Hee-Soo Park got Mitch Dening to fly out to right and then struck out No. 3 hitter Luke Hughes.

Clayton Tanner put the blue-and-white away in the sixth, but Kyung-Eun Noh struck out two of the three hitters he faced in the bottom of the frame to prevent Australia from lessening the deficit.

Korea added another run in the seventh. Yong-Kyu Lee had his second hit to start things off, with Keun-Woo Jeong replacing him on a fielder’s choice. Dae-Ho Lee singled the run home and the Blue Bogy grabbed a 5-0 lead.

Australia’s struggles continued against Korea’s reliever in the seventh, despite a Kennelly leadoff hit. Noh and Tae-Hyon Chong teamed up to retire the final three batters.

Korea loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the eighth, and Jeong crushed a pitch to left field, but the wind blew it down and Australia escaped with no further damage.

The Aussies had their only other real opportunity in the bottom of the inning after Stefan Welch blooped a ball that landed in shallow left centre. Yong-Kyu Lee made a last-second attempt after Hi-Hyon Son pulled away at the last minute. Welch advanced to third on a ground ball, but Seung Lak-Son would retire Mike Walker, who had two hits on the day, to end the threat. It was the only time Australia had a runner reach third.

Korea struck a final time in the ninth off Ryan Rowland-Smith, who spent several years in the Seattle Mariners’ rotation. Seung-Yeop Lee led off with a safety and advanced to second on a single by Dae-Ho Lee, later scoring on a grounder by Jeong Choi. James Beresford made a nice play for the out, backing up a diving Welch at third and catching the ball after it tipped of Welch’s glove and nailing Choi by a step.

Son finished off the shutout by striking out two batters in the ninth. Park got four outs, two by strikeout and Noh struck out two-of-five batters in relief. Chong and Son finished off the game. Korean hurlers whiffed 12 batters and were backed up flawlessly by a defence which had committed four errors against the Netherlands.

Korea was 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position after going hitless against the Netherlands in the same situation. Australia was 1-for-11 in their attempts to drive men home from second or third.

Seung-Yeop Lee and Dae-Ho Lee both had three hits and a RBI. Yong-Kyu Lee reached base four times, twice on hits. Ah-Seop Son reached base in all four plate appearances.

Seven hurlers toed the rubber for Australia. Searle gave up four runs on four hits and two walks, striking out two. Kent was easily the most effective reliever, though Tanner (1 IP), Brad Thomas (1/3 IP), and Matthew Williams (2/3 IP) did not allow a run. Kennelly reached base in all three plate appearances and joined Walker with a brace of hits.

Barring a surprising turn of events, Australia will be eliminated from the Classic and will have to win their final match to avoid relegation to the qualifiers. The Aussies will take on the Netherlands in their final contest on only 18 hours rest. First pitch is at 4:30 a.m. GMT on Mar. 5. Korea will face Chinese Taipei, who is undefeated in Pool B action. The showdown between the Asian arch-rivals is set for 11:30 a.m. on Mar. 5.

Stay tuned for more news, reviews, and analysis.

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WBC: Australia vs Korea Pitching Match Up


With both Korea and Australia losing their opening games, this match proves to be very important for both teams if they want to keep their chances alive of advancing to the next round. So with a short time to go before first pitch, let’s take a look at the starters.

Korea

Seung-Jun Song will get the nod for Korea. He pitched for eight years in the US minor leagues after being signed initially by the Boston Red Sox. He advanced as far as Triple-A in both the Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants organizations before returning to pitch in Korea.

In 2012, he pitched for the Lotte Giants posting a 7-11 record with an ERA of 3.31 in 28 games. It was his first year in the KBO to not win 10 or more games after doing so from 2008-2011.

His international experience consists of being apart of the 2008 Olympic team that won the gold medal in Beijing.

Australia

Going tonight for Australia will be Ryan Searle. Signed by the Chicago Cubs, Searle has pitched in their minor league organization since 2008.

Searle spent most of the 2012 season with Single-A Daytona, but did make appearances in Double-A and Triple-A during 2012. He pitched in a 42 games across the different leagues in 2012 going a combined 8-5 with a 3.87 ERA.

His international experience includes a win over Canada at the 2011 World Cup where he pitched 7.1 shutout innings.

Tonight is a must win for both clubs, so don’t be surprised if a lot of pitchers are used.

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WBC: The Netherlands Defeat Korea 5-0 in Pool B


The Netherlands flashed some leather and picked up timely hits to defeat what looked like an out of sync Korea team on Saturday night in Taichung in front of a sparse crowd. The Dutch are no strangers to knocking off powerhouse teams after defeating the Dominican Republic twice in 2009 to advance to the second round, and they did the same tonight with a 5-0 win over Korea.

The game started a bit shaky for the Korea defense issuing two errors in the bottom of the first. But Keun-woo Jeong made up for his error with a nice defensive play to turn two and get out of the inning without giving up a run.

The Netherlands would get on the board an inning later. Andruw Jones lead off the inning with a double to left, moved to third on a sacrifice, and scored the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Curt Smith.

That is where the game would stay for awhile as Dutch starter Diegomar Markwell pitched well. He tossed four scoreless innings allowing just two hits, one walk, and struck out two along the way. Markwell got ground balls and stayed out of trouble. His defense backed him up well too making play after play.

The Netherlands picked up another pair of runs in the fifth inning. After loading the bases, the Washington Nationals Roger Bernadina grounded out driving in a run. The Korea defense, which was shaky all night, was only able to get one out on the play although it would have been really tough to double up Bernadina.

Wladimir Balentien followed up Bernadina’s ground out with a single driving in another run to make the score 3-0.

Korea threatened in the seventh when Dae-ho Lee started the inning with a walk. Hyun-soo Kim singled to right putting runners at first and second with no outs. After a force play at second, Min-ho Kang came to bat with one out and runners at the corners. Coming off a nice season with the Lotte Giants, Kang needed a big hit to put Korea back into the game. However, he went down swinging.

Seung-yeop Lee pinch hit next and was put out on a nice running catch by second baseman Jonathan Schoop to end the inning and the threat by Korea.

That seemed to be the way the game went for Korea. Anytime they threatened, a nice defensive play was made, or they hit into an easy out. Neither their offense or defense really seemed to be running on more than on cylinder.

Immediately after the threat by Korea, the Dutch team came right back with more runs of its own. Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons led off the bottom of the seventh with a double to left field. He immediately moved to third on a passed ball. After Schoop was hit by a pitch, Bernadina came through with his second RBI of the game on a double to right field.

Balentien walked to load the bases, and then the carnival was back in town. Andruw Jones hit a comebacker to the pitcher which looked like an easy double play. After the force out at home, catcher Kang Min-ho threw the ball into right field allowing Bernadina to score making it 5-0.

Two things were obvious in the game. First of all, Korea didn’t look like they were ready to play. Their offense has struggled in the warm up games and it continued to struggle on Saturday night. They are still in the hunt, but they need to get their offense going or there will be a lot of unhappy people on the peninsula.

Secondly, somebody needs to teach Andruw Jones how to slide before he hurts himself. Twice at home plate he had awkward slides. Once was when it looked like he might try to run over the catcher but didn’t, and on the other there was no play at the plate. Then later on after choosing not to run over the catcher, he runs over the second baseman as he is going from first to second on a ground ball. He is called out and it costs the Dutch a run.

The Netherlands got a combined shutout performance out of starter Markwell and relievers Orlando Yntema, Leon Boyd, and Mark Pawelek. Combined the group gave up only four hits and four walks.

Korea will try to regroup and find their bats when they face off with Australia on Monday. The Netherlands will turn around and play the other winner in Pool B, Chinese Taipei Sunday afternoon.

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WBC: Korea vs Netherlands Pitching Match Up


Game 2 of Pool B is nearly upon us with two teams that have a good chance of advancing making this an important game between Korea and Netherlands. So before they get going, let’s take a quick look at the starting pitchers.

Korea

Yoon Suk-Min will take the hill for Korea in their opening match with the Netherlands. The right-handed pitcher has been pitching for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) where he went 9-8 in 2012. In 28 starts, Yoon tossed a pair of shutouts posting an ERA of 3.12.

He had an outstanding 2011 season when he led the league in wins (17), ERA (2.45), and strikeouts (178). He was the first pitcher to lead in four different categories (he also led in winning percentage) since 1991.

He has international experience pitching in the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 WBC. In 2009, he went 2-0 over four games posting a 1.13 ERA in 16 innings. He looks to anchor down the Korea staff once again with the hopes of leading them back to the championship game.

Netherlands

The Dutch starter will be lefty Diegomar Markwell, who is the cousin of teammate Andruw Jones. Markwell was signed at the age of 16 by the Toronto Blue Jays and bounced around the minor leagues for seven seasons reaching as high as Double-A.

Outside of a short stint in the CPBL, since 2004 Markwell has been playing in the Dutch Major League and with the Neptunus Rotterdam since 2005. He was the Dutch Pitcher of the Year in 2006, and had a great season in 2012 posting a 11-1 record with an ERA of 1.34 in 12 games for the Neptunus.

He has been apart of the Dutch National Team since 2004 and has pitched in the past two WBCs and the 2008 Olympics.

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International Players on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospect List – Numbers 81-90


Last time we took a look at #91-100 on the Baseball America Top 100 Prospect List which featured three international players. Today we take the next step down the list with #81-90.

Hak-Ju Lee, ss, TB – #90

Born in South Korea, Lee was signed as a free agent by the Cubs in 2008. He was later traded to Tampa Bay in the deal that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs.

Lee spent the 2012 season in Double-A Montgomery where he put up solid numbers, but the slipped a bit as he moved up against tougher competition. This is his third time on the Top 100 List starting at #92 in 2011. He then jumped up a lot after a nice 2011 season to #44 before falling back to #90 this year.

Lee has a lot of speed stealing 37 bases in 2012 in Double-A and hitting 10 triples. His on-base-percentage fell quite a bit this past season as his strikeout numbers jumped to over 100, but look for him to settle in with more at-bats against the higher competition. He is a plus defender at shortstop and has consistently been ranked among the top Rays prospects for the past couple seasons.

James Paxton, lhp, SEA – #87

Paxton hails from Canada but played his college ball at the University of Kentucky. He is a hard throwing lefty who has averaged more than a strikeout per inning over his brief career. Drafted by the Blue Jays in 2009, Paxton didn’t sign and elected to return to school. However, the NCAA deemed him ineligible due to his contract with agent Scott Boras. Instead, he signed with the independent Grand Prairie Airhogs before being drafted again in 2010. This time he was drafted in the 4th round by Seattle and signed.

In his first season of affiliated ball, Paxton struck out 131 batters in 95 innings. He spent all of the 2012 season at Double-A Jackson where he posted a line of 9-4/3.05 in 21 starts. He throws hard and has a good breaking ball, but like many young pitchers can struggle with his control at times. In 2012, he walked 54 batters in 106 innings. Look for him to get a little more seasoning in the minor leagues this upcoming season.

Yordano Ventura, rhp, KC – #85

This is the first appearance on the Top 100 for Ventura who hails from the Dominican Republic. While Ventura may be small in stature, 5’11” and 150 lbs, he has shown a live arm and the ability to get hitters out.

Ventura spent 2012 split mostly between Single-A and Double-A, but he posted good numbers at both. In 109.1 combined innings he struck out 130 batters. After his move up to the higher level he struggled a bit, but he is still only 21. For the past two seasons he has ranked #1 in the Kansas City Royals organization for the best fastball.

He will need more seasoning in the minors, but he could have a big future ahead of him, especially if he harnesses that fastball and learns to throw more strikes.

Arodys Vizcaino, rhp, CHC – #83

Vizcaino is no stranger to the Top 100 List as this is his fourth appearance on it. Out of the Dominican Republic, he was once a top prospect with the Yankees and then Atlanta.

He is still  young at only 22, but he has has injury problems. He had Tommy John surgery in March of 2012 and missed the entire season. He has a great fastball, once clocked at 101 mph, and has had a top rated curve ball in every minor league system he has been apart of.

In 2011, Vizcaino got a taste of the big leagues pitching in 17 games for the Atlanta Braves. While he struggled with his control at times (he walked 9 in 17 innings), he also showed how he can be overpowering striking out a batter per inning.

He will look to come back from injury this season and reclaim the form that made him one of the top prospects. He has a strong arm, is still very young, and with some time already in the big leagues he will look to eventually help the Cubs at the big league level sometime in the near future.

Martin Perez, lhp, TEX – #81

Perez comes out of Venezuela and is a highly thought of pitching prospect for the Texas Rangers. At the age of 21, Perez got a taste of the big leagues making six starts in Texas and getting into six other games in relief.

Perez has been talked about for several years now within the Rangers organization. He is a left-handed pitcher with good off speed stuff having ranked at the top of the Rangers minor league system as having the best curve ball and change up and one point or another. His biggest problem it seems so far has been control. He has continually walked more than three batters per nine innings pretty much everywhere he has gone. He is not going to blow hitters away and rack up strikeouts, so he has to learn better control.

Perez has a shot at the Rangers rotation this year if he can come away with a big spring. The team is hurting for starters as a few of their regulars are on the DL with injuries to start the season. He could just make it in as the number five starter if he pitches well enough.If not, look for him to start the year in Triple-A Round Rock.

Next up we will take a look at the international players from #71-80.

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New Podcast on Korean Baseball


There is a new kid on the podcast block. Dan from over at MyKBO.net has ventured into the world of podcasts with his first two over the weekend.

If you are not familiar with Dan or the site, you should definitely check it out. The site is THE site for updates and information on the Korean Baseball Organization in English. There is no other site that rivals it.

And there isn’t a better time to learn about the KBO, its players, and the goings on around the league with the World Baseball Classic coming up in under a week. Team Korea finished 2nd in the 2009 Classic, and they will once again be one of the favorites to make a run at the championship.

So head on over to the site, click on News and see what Dan has been doing with his podcasts. So far there are two. They are short, but they are full of good information. And if you like them, like I do, drop him a note and let him know so he will continue making them.

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2013 World Baseball Classic Preview – South Korea


Korea Primed to Continue Classic Title Chase

By Gabriel Fidler (@gabrielfidler)
Second in a series of 2013 World Baseball Classic previews

MARYVILLE, Tenn. –After their second place finish in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Korea will enter the 2013 tournament as one of the favourites. The journey could prove much more challenging than last time, however, as they will travel to Taiwan to face an improved Chinese Taipei. The Blue Bogy, as they are known to the Korean media, will also have to face the defending World Champions, the Netherlands, and tenth-ranked Australia.

Previous World Baseball Classics
In the last Classic, Korea recovered from a 14-2 drubbing by Japan to advance out of the first round after eking out a 1-0 win over the Samurai. They travelled to San Diego for a bracket that once more included Japan, but also had Cuba and Mexico. Despite defeating Japan again, their rivals took the higher seeding after winning a seeding game.

Korea advanced to the finals, where they were paired against Venezuela, fresh off a victory over the United States. Korea dismantled them in a 10-2 win, before once more facing Japan, this time at Dodger Stadium for the Classic title.

The game lived up to its billing. Japan scored first, but a Shin-Soo Choo home run in the fifth made the score 1-1. By the eighth, Japan held a 3-1 lead with six outs to go. Korea had other plans, scoring its second run off starter Hisashi Iwakuma, now a Seattle Mariner. After holding Japan scoreless in the ninth, Korea tied it up against Yu Darvish, but Japan wrecked their title dreams in the top of the tenth as Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run single to give Japan their second WBC championship in-a-row.

The script was remarkably similar in the first Classic in 2006, as South Korea swept through the opening round with three straight wins, including a 3-2 victory over Japan in group title contest. In the second round, they repeated the feat, this time with a 2-1 decision over Team Nippon, but lost to Japan 6-0 in the semifinals.

All told, the blue-and-white has a 12-4 record in the World Baseball Classic, outscoring its opponents by 21 runs in those 16 games. Only Japan has as many wins, though no one has a better winning percentage. In fact, the two neighbours are the only countries with a double-digit victory total.

Korea has been remarkably consistent in the two tournaments, hitting exactly .243 with 20 extra base hits as a team in each, which places them in the middle of the pack among team batting averages. Where they have stood out, however, has been on the pitching mound.

In 2006, the nation led all participants with a 2.00 ERA, placing second with a 1.00 WHIP. In 63 innings, they allowed only 45 hits and 18 walks while striking out 50. The most recent Classic saw the team post an ERA of exactly three, surrendering 82 hits and 22 walks in 78 frames. Korean pitchers whiffed 60.

Korea’s Recent International Play
Korea’s success in the World Baseball Classic is no surprise given their results in other international tournaments. The blue-and-white competed in almost every Baseball World Cup, finishing with a 94-67 all-time record after the final Cup in 2011. In 14 appearances, they collected one championship (a tall feat with Cuba’s international dominance), five second places finishes (most recently in 2005), and twice earned third place.

The Blue Bogy also appeared in three of the five Olympic Games in which baseball was contested, taking gold in the final Olympics (2008) and bronze in 2000.

Korea has competed in plenty of tournaments hosted by Chinese Taipei. In all competitions, the Blue Bogy is 35-33-1, dating back to the 1962 ABC in Taipei. Korea has had less success in global tournaments that have taken place in Taiwan, though.

As might be expected, Korea and Chinese Taipei have a long history of competition. They first squared off in the first Asian Championship in 1954 and have played almost every year since. In the past decade, Korea holds an 8-5 advantage.

“Taiwan plays powerful baseball,” expressed Il-Sung Ha, a renowned Korea baseball analyst. “They come out after a thorough analysis of Team Korea. They shouldn’t be taken lightly.”

In the same period, Korea has also had a regular showdown with the Netherlands, and has not beaten the Dutch since the 2008 Olympics, on the way to their last major international title. Between 2009-11, the Netherlands beat the blue-and-white every year in a world tournament, and Korea is only 3-6 versus them in the last 10 years. Their most recent matchup in the 2011 World Cup was a 5-1 decision in favour of the Dutch, who went on to become world champions.

The Blue Bogy has had similar results against Australia, winning only three-of-eight since 1999. They last faced each other in the 2011 Cup, with Korea taking a round robin contest 8-0 and the Aussies winning their next game 3-2, which gave Australia fifth place and dropped Korea a spot below them. Korea has never faced Australia or the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

“The Netherlands is said to be strong, but Taiwan has always tried to catch up with Korea,” star pitcher Jae Weong Seo told Korea JoongAng Daily. “Only when we beat Taiwan will we be able to relax in the second round.”

The 2013 Squad
Manager Joong-Il Ryu will rely almost solely on players developed in their professional league, the Korea Baseball Organisation (KBO). The country has only had pro ball since the early 1980s, and it has only been in the last two decades that American teams have begun to sign Korean baseball players.

The most notable are Chan Ho Park, Byung-Hyun Kim and Shin-Soo Choo. Choo is the only active one of the three and was traded this offseason to the Cincinnati Reds after seven standout years with the Cleveland Indians. He is a career .289/.381/.465 hitter with 85 stolen bases in 699 games.

Unfortunately for Korea, Choo and recent Los Angeles Dodgers’ signee Hyun-Jin Ryu will not be on the 2013 roster. Choo asked to be left off the squad as he will be transitioning to a new position (centerfield). He hit two home runs in the 2009 Classic. Ryu appeared in five games in the 2009 tourney, winning a game and finishing with a 2.57 ERA.

The blue-and-white will also be missing Bum Ho Lee, who hit .400 with three home runs and seven RBI in 2009, and is a .297 career hitter in the WBC. Lee will be missing for undisclosed reasons.

The Lineup
Despite them omission of Choo and Lee, the lineup has the potential to be a strength for Korea, unlike in previous tournaments. The pitching side has less depth than in previous years, but the starting nine has above-average hitters at every position and is particularly strong at the infield corners.

Like Japan, the Blue Bogy will be expected to be good contact hitters, but should flash more power, as it has in previous Classics. Korea returns several other top hitters from previous Classics, including Seung-Yeop Lee, Hyun-Soo Kim, and Tae-Kyun Kim.

“[If] Lee Seung-yeop, Kim Tae-kyun and Lee Dae-ho all… lead well at bat, we will be able to have a good result,” remarked Korea’s manager to the JoongAng Daily.

Seung-Yeop Lee missed the 2009 Classic, but put in arguably the best-ever performance in a WBC in 2006. He hit .333 with five four-baggers, eight runs, and 10 RBI in seven games, walking four times. In the 2008 Olympics, he hit a game-winning home run in the semifinals versus Japan and added another four-bagger in the gold medal win over Cuba.

Lee holds multiple Asian records, including being the youngest player to 300 career home runs (26) and most dingers in a season (56). The first-sacker has 504 career homers and a .288 average in Korea and Japan combined. He was the KBO Championship MVP in 2012, and has five MVP awards in the Korean circuit.

The 36-year old will also have added motivation in what will likely be his last Classic as his Korea team, the Samsung Lions, lost to a Taiwanese club in the Asia Series in November. The Series pits the winners of several Asian leagues against each other to determine the Asian club champion. Lee was quite unproductive for the Lions.

“Regardless of the circumstances or my position, I will help the team win. I think that’s what I am supposed to do,” Lee told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “It still pains me that we didn’t make it to the final with our loss to Japan,” Lee said. “To not repeat the painful experience of 2006, I will work harder. This time, we will get them back by winning the event.”

Hyun-Soo Kim was second on the team in 2009 with a .393 average, leading the squad in doubles (3) and on-base percentage (.514). A year before, he ripped a .370 average in the Olympics. In the KBO, the outfielder has a .319 career mark, slugging .481. He has won two Golden Gloves in the outfield.

Tae-Kyun Kim tied Lee for the team (and tournament) lead in 2009 with three four-baggers, hitting .345/.486/.690 in the process. He also led the team in walks (8), RBI (11), and runs (9), while striking out only three times in nine games. The first baseman also appeared in 2006, going 0-for-1, but reached base three times. Kim is a .309 career hitter with 226 home runs in Japan and Korea.

Dae-Ho Lee is a candidate to replace Bum-Ho Lee at third base. Lee played at the WBC in 2009, notching a .278/.440/.389 line, but had even better results in the 2008 Olympics, stroking a .360 average and slugging .760. He had 15 RBI between the two events. In his senior international career, he is a .353 career hitter with six home runs and 33 RBI in 116 at bats.

Lee has also had a storied professional career. In 2006, he won the Korean Baseball Organisation’s Triple Crown with a .336 average, 26 home runs, and 88 RBI. He lost the MVP award that year to Hyun-Jin Ryu, the latest Korean to make the big leagues.

In 2010, he set a world record by hitting homers in nine straight games, once more winning the Triple Crown. He moved to Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), Japan’s major leagues, in 2012, leading the league in RBI and winning the Home Run Derby. He has a .306 average and 249 home runs in his pro career.

With six members of the 2009 starting lineup still on the roster, it is possible to project how manager Ryu will fill out this year’s batting order. The top four in the order should remain unchanged from 2009, while Seung-Yeop Lee will once more feature in the heart of the order.

Yongkyu Lee –CF
Keunwoo Jeong – 2B
Hyunsoo Kim – LF
Taekyun Kim – 1B
Seung-Yeop Lee – DH
Dae-Ho Lee – 3B
Jin Young Lee – RF
Jung-Ho Kang – SS
Minho Kang/Kabyong Jin – C

The Pitching Staff
Most of Korea’s best pitchers from previous Classics are not on this year’s team, but the Blue Bogy has a trio of key returning pitchers. They include former major leaguer Jae Weong Seo, Suk-Min Yoon, and Tae-Hyon Chong.

Seo had a five-year stint in MLB between 2003-2007, with several strong seasons. He was only 28-40, but pitched for weak teams during his career. Seo had a 4.60 ERA, but did much better in 2003, his rookie year (3.82), and 2005 (8-2, 2.59).

Seo was Korea’s best starter in 2006, tying Bartolo Colón of the Dominican Republic for second in ERA. He won his first two starts against Chinese Taipei (3.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K) and Mexico (5.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K). The righty saved his best for Japan in the semifinals, tossing five scoreless frames, allowing only four baserunners, but Korea went on to lose.

Yoon started two games and relieved in a pair of others in 2009, pitching the tune of a 1.13 ERA. He was particularly effective against a loaded Venezuelan side, allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings. Yoon struck out four in the win, also notching a victory against China. He earned a pair of holds for his scoreless relief against Japan and Mexico.

Yoon has earned five wins with a 0.41 ERA when hurling for Korea. This includes five shutout innings against Chinese Taipei in his most recent national team start at the 2010 Asian Games. He has pitched in a variety of roles for the KBO and has a 3.12 career ERA in the league.

Chong has appeared in nine international tournaments for Korea. He has a 3-2 record and four saves, working in a variety of roles. Chong has a career 1.76 ERA for the national team with 75 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings. He won the strikeout title at the 2002 Intercontinental Cup.

The submarine-style thrower has pitched five frames between the two Classics, allowing two runs and whiffing eight. In domestic competition, Chong’s ERA stands at 1.93, though with only 7.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

Seo has a starting spot all but guaranteed, and will likely take the hill against Chinese Taipei. Yoon should also feature in the rotation, with Jang also potentially in line for a start. Chong may see action a starter and reliever. Anchoring the bullpen will be three pitchers that are new to the squad: Seung-Hwan Oh, Seun-glak Son, and Hee-Soo Park.

Oh has seen action in four tournaments for Korea, compiling a 4.50 ERA with two losses and two saves. In an eight-year KBO career, he has a 1.69 ERA and has led the league in saves five times, setting a league record of 47 saves on two different occasions.

Son has only twice pitched for Korea, both times at the World Cup. He is 1-3 with a save and a 3.13 ERA, striking out 30 in 37 1/3 frames. The right-hander has a 3.78 ERA in Korea, but that number has dropped to 2.22 since he became a closer in 2010.

Park has a 1.97 ERA in the domestic circuit, working mostly as a setup man. His 2012 season was particular impressive, as he led the league in holds (34) on the strength of a 1.32 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 82 frames. Despite a fastball in the mid-80s (135 kmh), he has induced strikeouts at the rate of 9.9 per nine innings in his career. The left-hander had an ERA of 3.00 in the 2010 Intercontinental Cup, whiffing 15 in 12 innings.

JoongAng Daily has reported on Seo’s leadership qualities. “This is my last chance (to play in the WBC), so I want to lead the younger players well and get at least to the semifinals,” Seo told the paper.

As the oldest pitcher on the team and the only athlete to play in the Majors, Seo has been preparing the rest of the staff on their opponents and on the peculiarities of WBC pitch counts, though most international tournaments use a similar system.

“They won’t have any regrets if they just concentrate on each pitch,” concluded Seo.

The Classic also uses the same Rawlings ball as MLB, which Korean pitchers consider ‘slippery’. Seo has advised those other pitchers how to accommodate the different feel, as only three other hurlers have used it in a game situation.

“It is slippery, but it’ll be pitched with the help of a rosin bag (to improve grip) during the games,” Seo told the Daily. “I think it’ll get better if they pitch the ball with sweat on their hands.”

The Team
Some have speculated that the current roster is the weakest that Korea has entered into a World Baseball Classic, but the team has other ideas.

“I know the media and the public are worried about us,” said Dae-Ho Lee at a press conference on Feb. 12. “I was picked for the national team several times so far and it has never been so strong. We had good results [before] only because the players were united to do something great.”

“Team Korea gets stronger when it is deemed weak,” observed star Seung-Yeop Lee. He had similar thoughts for the Korea Times. “I will try my best to show Korean baseball is still strong.”

“Our strength is teamwork,” Lee remarked to the JoongAng Daily. “I will try my best and help the team to a better outcome. I will try to make a ‘Miracle of March’ happen.”

KBO is going above and beyond to ensure all the players’ needs are met. According to Chosun, Korea will be carrying two extra trainers beyond the normal three, and sprung for brand new suits and shoes for the team members to wear while travelling. Players will also be served at least one Korean meal a day “so they don’t feel too homesick.”

“They are the representatives of Korea and have already been tested,” declared Chan Ho Park, who will serve as a broadcaster for this Classic. “I hope they gain valuable experience through this event and use it as a solid foundation to move to a bigger league in the future.”

Manager Ryu went further, predicting a title as the Korean team was unveiled in Seoul on Jan. 23. “I will guarantee that Korea will be full of the sounds of heartbeats and applause of all countrymen in March.”

The road to the championship begins for Korea on Mar. 2 at 11:30 GMT against the Netherlands at the Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taichung. The Blue Bogy will contest Australia on Mar. 4 at 10:30 GMT before their showdown with Taiwan in the last game of the pool. The two will face off on Mar. 5 at 11:30 GMT.

For a more extensive look at the Korea team, check out the full preview at Extra Innings: Baseball Around the World. Stay tuned for more news, previews, and recaps of the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

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WBC: Korea Releases Preliminary Roster


Despite some of the best players from South Korea taking this WBC off, the expectations are still very high for the 2009 runner-up.

Major Leaguers Choo Shin-soo and now Ryu Hyun-jin who recently signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers have decided to sit out to prepare for the 2013 MLB season.

That doesn’t mean that the 2013 team won’t be without experience or talent.

Back is veteran Lee Seung-yeop who starred in the 2006 tournament hitting 5 home runs. He will provide veteran leadership and a powerful bat at first base. Also back is from the 2009 squad is two-time KBO triple crown winner Lee Dae-ho who will provide power in the middle of the lineup.

One of the hitting starts of the 2009 squad Kim Tae-kyun will return as well. In 2009, Kim hit .345 with 3 home runs, and a team best 11 RBI for the runner-ups.

The Kia Tigers pitcher Yoon Suk-min is back as well. In 2009, Yoon pitched in 5 games (2 starts) going 2-0 with an ERA of 1.13 in 16 innings. Also on the pitching staff is former New York Met Seo Jae who has been pitching with the Kia Tigers of the KBO in recent years.

The team will open the 2013 Classic in Taiwan facing off with host Taiwan, Australia, and The Netherlands with the top two teams in the pool advancing to the second round in Tokyo.

2013 WBC Korea Preliminary Roster

Pitchers
Woo-chan Cha
Woo Jun Chang
Tae-Hyon Chong
Won-Sam Jang
Wong-Chan Lee
Kyung Eun Noh
Seung Hwan Oh
Jae Seo
Seung-Lak Son
Wonsang Yoo
Hi-Sang Yoon
Suk-Min Yoon

Catchers
Kab-Yong Jin
Min-Ho Kang

Infielders
Jeong Choi
Keun-Woo Jeong
Jung-Ho Kang
Sangsu Kim
Tae-Kyun Kim
Dae-Ho Lee
Seung-Yeop Lee
Si-Hyun Son

Outfielders
Jun-woo Jeon
Hyun-Soo Kim
Jin-Young Lee
Yong-Kyu Lee
Ahseop Son

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Korea: KT Announced as Owner of 10th KBO Franchise


The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) approved KT to be owner of the 10th team in the league on Thursday.

The company, one of the biggest telecommunication companies, was in a battle with construction firm Booyoung for the next franchise. KT has partnered with the city of Suwon, just outside of Seoul, to bring a team back to the city that once was home to the Hyundai Unicorns.

The two companies submitted bids that a committee went over recently to determine who would be the better fit for the league. The committee came back with more positives to say about the KT application.

The KBO will have nine teams this year making scheduling an issue after the NC Dinos are coming on as the 9th franchise in the league. The new KT team will play in the minor leagues, just as NC did this past season.

Suwon Baseball Stadium - South Korea

Suwon Baseball Stadium – South Korea

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Korea: SK Wyverns Sign Pitcher Jo Jo Reyes


Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting that the Anaheim Angels have released pitcher Jo Jo Reyes so he can sign with the SK Wyverns of the KBO.

Reyes signed a free agent contract with Anaheim in mid November last year after spending the year in the minor leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

Reyes has had trouble at the Major League level going a combined 12-26 over 70 games in 5 years. He seems to have a problem finding the strike zone walking nearly 4 batters per 9 innings. However, in the minor leagues he has done much better.

In 58 games at the AAA level, Reyes is 16-10 with an ERA of 3.01. Last season with Indianapolis of the International League, Reyes went 6-2 in 17 games (9 starts) with an ERA of 2.67.

Reyes should fill the roll of a starter with the Wyverns as they look to collect their 4th Korea Series title.

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Korea: KT Takes Step Toward New KBO Franchise


KT took a big step forward in getting the 10th KBO team recently.

KT is locked in a battle with another Korean corporation Booyoung for the 10th franchise in the league. Both companies have applied for the franchise, but KT received more positive reviews from the 22 evaluators that looked over the applications this week.

Both companies are trying to bring a team back to an area where teams have failed in the past. KT has teamed with the city of Suwon where they would base their new team. Suwon was the former home of the Hyundai Unicorns. Booyoung is looking to bring the new franchise to Jeonju, North Jeolla Province where the Ssangbangwool Raiders were once located.

There are two sides to the argument of adding a 10th team. One side is looking for this to happen quickly. In 2013, there will be nine teams in the KBO creating scheduling problems. So in order to fix that, many people want to add the 10th team as soon as possible to even out the league and the schedule.

On the flip side of things are those who feel 10 teams will only dilute the talent pool in the KBO making the league suffer a bit in the long run. Right now the league is experiencing record attendance, but many fear if the talent is diluted too much it will drive away fans with the poor play.

Under the league’s rules, expansion is only possible with approval of at least two-thirds of the teams owners. Officials from the league have said they hope to finish the process in January.

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Korea: Samsung Lions Pitcher Sign Rick van den Hurk


DAEGU, South Korea – The Samsung Lions have announced the signing of Rick van den Hurk for the 2013 season.

The native of the Netherlands pitched the 2012 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He spent most of the year in AAA Indianapolis where he appeared in 21 games (19) starts compiling a 13-5 record with an ERA of 2.92. He also appeared in 4 games for the MLB club going 0-1 with a 13.50 ERA.

He has spent parts of 6 seasons with MLB clubs pitching in 50 games (35 starts). Overall his MLB record is 8-11 with an ERA just over 6. He has the ability to miss bats (8.8 strikouts per 9 lifetime), but has had trouble finding the strike zone at times (4.7 walks per 9).

He will join fellow former Major Leaguer in Aneury Rodríguez on the Lions pitching staff.

Van den Hurk has already stated that he will miss the 2013 World Baseball Classic to start preparing for spring training with his new club. He was a part of the 2009 Netherlands club that shocked the Dominican Republic twice.

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Korea: Daegu Breaks Ground on New Stadium for Samsung Lions


DAEGU, South Korea – A new baseball stadium has been needed in Daegu for some time. After talking for quite some time about building a new one and then having it delayed for one reason or another, a groundbreaking ceremony finally took place on December 27th.

The initial thought was to have the stadium completed for the 2014 season with construction beginning late 2012. With the groundbreaking just happening, the new timeline is to have the stadium finished for the 2015 season.

The construction will take place near Grand Park Station. The stadium will seat 24,000 fans with capacity capping out around 29,000. That is important because the KBO doesn’t allow the final games of the Korean Season to be played at a stadium with under 25,000 seats. The past two seasons Samsung has won the Korean Series but has been unable to hold the final games of the series at home due to the size of their current stadium.

The new stadium will replace Daegu Baseball Stadium, the home of the Lions since the leagues inception in 1982. However, the stadium was initially built in 1948 and definitely shows its age. The concrete jungle has little character, not to mention little space.

Source: Naver

Special thanks to Dan at MyKBO.net for finding the Korean story.

Daegu Stadium

Future Daegu Baseball Stadium

DaeguBaseballStadium-1-1

Groundbreaking Ceremony Banner

 

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Interview: Filmmaker Philip Riccobono – ‘Fighting': Cheering in Korea


Recently filmmaker Philip Riccobono stopped to answer some questions about his upcoming documentary on baseball in Korea.

What brought you to Korea to film your documentary ‘Fighting': Cheering in Korea?

I knew South Korea as solid-baseball country and after living in Japan a decade ago, I thought Korea probably had some pretty intense fans.  I felt North American fans needed to feel this intensity and put them inside Korean stadiums to see and hear this brand of cheering, completely foreign to them.

What has been the most surprising thing you have seen so far from the Korean baseball fans?

I remember my first game in Japan 10 years ago.  The fans really impressed me: drums, horns, every pitch felt like a big moment, but after seeing KBO fans, I got blown away: synchronized cheers and songs; beautiful and talented cheerleaders.  If someone blindfolded you and dropped you in any given KBO stadium, you may think that the home-team needs a run to tie it in the bottom of the ninth.  Where in actuality, they might be in the first inning, scoreless or down by 10 in the 8th.  It doesn’t matter the fan intensity remains consistent throughout the game and as some North American fans my grow tired of it, Koreans don’t. Koreans as you know, have this mantra of “Fighting”- sort of motivational statement.  It translates into the stands.  After seeing them say it so much, I had to incorporate it into the title of the documentary.  So I named it “Fighting”: Cheering in Korea

Will you only film during baseball games or are you going to add in fans of other sports here like soccer?

Just sticking to baseball, but if you didn’t see the field at all in the documentary, you might think of them as soccer fans, based on their relentless cheering and passion- something that lacks in North American baseball. I also shoot some super fans in their everyday lives.  You’ll meet Harry Dean, “A fan of the people” and see him carving turkey on Thanksgiving for  a group of fellow Doosan Bears fans he invited into his home.  And guys like Ted Smith, honorary cheerleader for Nexen Heroes. He takes his act out to the bars after games, getting the fans pumped by leading cheers and dancing.  I haven’t seen anything like this from MLB fans; the closest thing you might compare these types of fans to is to college sports in America.

It seems the reaction has been great from the foreigners in Korea, but how has the reception been from the Korean side of things?

Yes, from fans to players, foreigners have embraced this project, but so have many Koreans.  Teams have not cooperated for the most part, but I hope they’ll come through.  Many of my contacts have come by way of a producer on the project, Dan Kurtz, of mykbo.net.  Danny has facilitated a lot.  Every foreign player I have approached has agreed and one has even stuck his neck out on the line, shooing away team officials when they tried to prevent me from shooting an interview.  Korean fans who I spoke seem really excited to share their brand of cheering with the world and a lot feel surprised and flattered by the interest from an American.

How would you compare fans here in Korea to fans in other countries you have been to?

The only country you might compare Korean fans to is Japan and on the richter scale I give Japan a 6, but Koreans go off the charts with a 12.  North American fans are more of baseball purists who like to take in the game in a more relaxed style, but in Korea most fans come to party and dance.  One MLB scout said it best:  “Welcome to the biggest outdoor, daytime disco!”

Have you noticed differences in the fans of the teams you have seen? If so, does one team stand out as a little bit louder or crazier?

Sure, Lotte Giants fans for sure.  They stand out aesthetically by blowing orange plastic bags and tying them around their heads in the later innings of each game.  Fans and players have given me several different reasons for this.  I recently went to the Asia Series which Lotte hosted at Sajik Stadium.  When the LotteGiants faced the Yomiyuri Giants of Japan, the hometown fans got a little territorial with the opposing fans for reasons that I can produce a whole other documentary on.  In any event, I captured some interesting tension between the two-sides.

What has been the biggest challenge in filming the documentary?

Lining up players to chat with.  After several attempts, Park Chan ho got back to me and agreed but I didn’t pick up the call and when I called back he left the facility.  I still hope to land him as he know how much Korean fans compare to North American and Japan’s fans.  He did the opposite of most Korean players by starting in North America and them coming here.  I wonder how much an adjustment  it was for him.  Park Chan ho are you out there?  (laughing).  Also time and logistics always create a challenge, but I feel fortunate to have a pretty good schedule as a university professor, and the KTX helps with getting me around the country.  I do most of the shooting on my own and it ties me up sometimes with getting other shots and reactions but you do your best.

Any future plans for more documentaries in either Korea or elsewhere?

The more I learn about the Japan-Korea baseball rivalry, clearly influenced by history, the more I want to do something with this.

When can everyone expect to see the finished product?

Production will probably wrap this upcoming spring and hope to release the project in film festivals by the end of next year.  People still have time to drop me a line if they have something interesting to add.  By all means, go ahead and email me: psricc@gmail.com or visit the project’s Facebook page and Twitter works too.

I’d like to thank Philip for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us. Visit the film’s Facebook page to see some behind the scenes photos and keep up to date with its progress. I know I’ll be looking forward to seeing the film when it is finished.

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Korea: KT to Sponsor Expansion KBO Team in Suwon


SUWON, South Korea – South Korean telecom giant KT Corp. said it will sponsor an expansion team in the KBO.

KT said it will start the 10th franchise in the KBO with the team located in the city of Suwon which is south of Seoul. The company is looking to have the team playing by 2015.

The league consists of 8 teams and has shattered the attendance record for the 4th year in a row. The 9th team will start play next season as the NC Dinos move into the league.

The Dinos are located in Changwon, about 250 miles south of Seoul, and are owned and operated by NC Soft, a game company.

Ever since the Dinos were announced as the 9th team, there have been people calling for a 10th team to even out the league. However, some teams have been against the addition of another team. They claim the small talent pool that already exists on the peninsula will be watered down even further with league expansion.

Suwon already has a stadium which was the former home of the now defunct Hyundai Unicorns. The city of Suwon and Gyeonggi Province have agreed to upgrade the current 14,000+ seat stadium and turn it into a 25,000 seat stadium. They will then turn around and lease the stadium back to KT for a period of 25 years.

The proposal is still subject to approval by 2/3 of the owners of the current KBO teams.

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