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Jo Sung-min to Play on Hanwha’s Farm Team

Posted June. 01, 2005 06:51,   


In an interview on May 25 at Daejeon Stadium, Jo Sung-min (32), “a pitcher of ill fortune,” said that he “does not want to get hurt any more.” He seemed like a hedgehog with his thorns standing up stiffly.

The athletic career of Jo, who joined the Hanwha farm team in early May, is like a flame drenched in the rain as it is about to burn. Jo Sung-min played at Shin –il High School, Korea University, and then in 1995, signed an eight-year contract with the Yomiuri Giants, Japan’s best baseball team. His play peaked in 1998 when he had seven victories in the first half of the year (six complete games including three shutouts), but it has gone downhill since.

In 2002, he wanted to play in Korea, but there was no team that wanted him. Worse yet, he divorced and failed in his business.

He may not want to open his mind to others any longer. Before the interview began, he flatly said, “We have 20 minutes,” and “Don’t ask about widely publicized matters.”

Jo, 195cm tall and weighing over 100kg, looked bigger than I thought. Eighteen days into his training, he is still working on weight training and stretching to improve his physical conditioning. This is because he once suffered a serious injury and was unable to play for almost three years.

Why is he hooked on baseball? Ricky Henderson, a “living legend” of the Major League, said that he still plays baseball even at the age of 47 “because he loves it.” But Jo replied, “I am not in a position to enjoy baseball. I am back to the field because I regretted the unfortunate ending of my career. I want to heal the wound to my pride.”

He even stated that he suffered from depression when going undrafted in the past two years. “I was stuck at home for two or three months. I was frustrated and thought of how useless I was, and then I resigned.”

When asked if he is confident about a successful comeback, he answered, “I might not be a major player. But now I can accept whatever results because at least I have an opportunity to challenge. I will have no regrets.”

I managed to persuade him to be photographed and asked about his hobby while doing so. Jo said, “I used to like singing, but not any more.” Then he said to himself, “What made me become like this?”

In a large parking space outside the stadium stood his lonely gray BMW. It seemed to have been there for a long time as it was covered with dust. On the trip back to Seoul, I couldn’t help thinking about his remarks that “there has been no one who really cared about me. Being alone is a lot easier for me.”

Sung-KyuKim kimsk@donga.com