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After Being Transferred Six Times, There Is Still Hope

Posted December. 07, 2004 22:50,   


“Why can’t I order a single service meal?”

On the afternoon of December 7, a professional baseball player “journeyman,” Choi Ik-sung (32), entered a restaurant in Daegu. As usual, he went to a restaurant alone, and ordered his lunch. However, every time he tried to decide on a menu selection, the waiter told him that it was for two people.

Choi Ik-sung ordered Nakji bokkeum (stir-fried octopus) by asking a favor of the waiter, and smiled a bitter smile.

“Until when should I eat alone?”

Among Korean professional baseball players, Choi has transferred the most to other teams in the league. Including all sports leagues, not just the baseball league, no other player has been transferred as many times as Choi.

After transferring from Samsung-Hanhwa-LG-Haitai (Kia)-Hyundai, he went back to Samsung this year. Again, he was released and signed a contract with SK at an annual salary of 50 million won. There were players like Dong Bong-chul, Lee Gwang-kil, and Lee Dong-soo who transferred five times, but Choi Ik-sung is the first player ever to transfer for a sixth time. There are only two teams left in the league that he did not play for: Doosan, and Lotte.

Choi, who graduated from Gyungju High School and Keimyung University, unlike other players, was not nominated by professional teams, and in 1994, he joined Samsung at an annual salary of 12 million won without contract money. He was released from Hyundai last year, and from Samsung this year. Choi said, “Counting being not nominated by a professional team, and two releases from teams, I should say that I was discharged three times.

Choi was in his prime of life in 1997 and 1998. Especially in 1997, when he entered the “20-20 club” by making 22 homeruns 33 steals. He was well known as a fence buster, fast runner, and an outfielder with strong shoulders.

Since 1999, Choi’s “nomadic life” started when he was first traded with No Jang-jin to Hanhwa. He was traded every year: LG in 2000, Haitai (Kia) in 2001, Hyundai in 2002, and more. About being traded so many times, Choi said, “To me, if it’s right, it’s right. I never call a wrong thing right. I think it’s because of my personality.”

“During the 10 years I played in the professional league, I spent more time with the farm team than playing in games. When I go home after a farm team drill, I go half crazy. I just sit, watching the wall or the TV. Since I had to move every year from a city to another, I was not able to make friends, and especially a girlfriend. I can stand moving every year. However, the loneliness is hard to bear. Every time I transfer to another team, the coaches tell me that I need to change my hitting form. Do you know why I can’t change it? If I were allowed to stay in a team for several years, I would change it. However, I have to show them what I have in a game or another way. If I don’t do well after a few times, I get kicked out to the farm team. The situation is difficult. Although I have had to move from one team to another, I have a dream. My dream is to play baseball until I am satisfied. What would I do if I got released from SK? I would have to find another team to play on.”

Sang-Soo Kim ssoo@donga.com