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The Power of Sun Dong-yeol

Posted November. 24, 2004 23:04,   


Sun Dong-yeol, now manager of the Samsung Lions and a former ace who was used to be called a “national treasure,” is only in his early forties, but his influence – “Sun Power” – in Korean baseball, is incredible.

The signing of former Hyundai sluggers Shim Jung-su and Park Jin-man on November 23, which obviously devastated this year’s Korean Series champions, the Hyundai Unicorns, was possible because of Sun’s invisible hand.

As soon as he arrived in Korea after having completed training camp in Taiwan and friendly match-ups against a Taiwanese baseball club, Brother Elephants, on November 22, Sun heard from Lions coach Kim Pyong-ho that contract negotiations with Shim and Park were not going so well. Sun immediately took out his cell phone and called Shim and Park.

Sun explained to them the reason why the Lions wanted them, and earnestly said that he really wants to play baseball with them. The result? At the press conference after signing contracts with the Lions, Shim and Park replied by saying that they are honored to play together with their childhood idol, Sun.

The early resignation of former manager Kim Ung-yong was possible only because his successor was Sun. Samsung, who wanted to give Sun the managerial post before the contract with Kim Ung-yong expired, found a solution in the unprecedented promotion of Kim Ung-yong to the position of CEO of the baseball club. Of course, it could happen thanks to the courage and determination of General Manager Kim Jae-ha, who was a strong candidate for CEO.

Sun was at the center of the generation shift in managerial positions in baseball teams. Last winter, Sun left a position as one of the Korea Baseball Organization’s (KBO) public relations committee members, a post that he had held for three years, and sought to come back to the baseball field. When the Doosan Bears tried to sign a contract with Sun, Kim In-sik, then the manager of Bears and current manager of the Hanhwa Eagles and also Sun’s teacher, gave up on renewing his contract with the Bears. Kim Kyung-moon, a young coach in his forties, succeeded Kim In-sik’s position in Doosan. The LG Twins, Lotte Giants, and SK Wyverns, who tried to acquire Sun the year before, all landed contracts with managers in forties: LG with Lee Soon-chul, Lotte with Yang Sang-moon, and SK with Cho Beom-hyeon.

Sun was the first one to sign a hundred million plus contract in the history of Korean baseball. The FA system was introduced to the KBO at the end of 1999, right after Sun retired as a player, because the KBO feared that the baseball market would go crazy if Sun came out in the free agent market.

Hwan Soo Zang zangpabo@donga.com