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Choi Hee-seop May Return To Korea

Posted February. 27, 2007 10:39,   


Choi Hee-seop, 28, who is participating in Tampa Bay’s Major League spring training camp as a non-roster invitee, has suggested for the first time that he may return to Korea or join another league. During a meeting with Korean reporters at the team’s camp in St. Petersburg, Florida, on February 26, Choi Hee-seop revealed that, “If I am not able to make it to the big leagues this year, I will consult my agent Mr. Lee Chi-hoon and look for a place where I can play my best.”

He said, “I turn 28 years old this year, and I think it will be difficult to continue on as a minor league player. I was the first Korean to be a position player in the major leagues, and I have played in the major leagues full-time for three years, but I no longer want to be anxious and stressed when I play baseball.”

This statement was not only referring to a return to Korea, but also the possibility of heading to Japan. When Choi Hee-seop was discharged from Boston last August, there were rumors that he would return to Kia, a baseball team in Korea, but this is the first time that he has personally spoken of moving to another league.

Of course, this is only under the premise that he does not make it to the major leagues. Choi Hee-seop signed a split contract (a contract that pays a different annual salary depending on whether he makes it onto a major league or minor league roster) in which he receives $1.95 million for two years, but it is also known that Choi added an article to his contract that allows him to leave the team without obligations if he is demoted to the minor leagues.

Choi Hee-seop said, “When the major league exhibition games come to an end, I will decide whether to stay in the United States or go to Korea or Japan.” Therefore, Choi’s final decision on which route he will take will likely be decided by the end of next month.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) has recently and temporarily eliminated the two-year grace period for overseas players who want to return to Korea, so there is no problem in Choi moving to a Korean team. But agent Lee Chi-hoon said, “I think his heart-to-heart talk with Korean reporters has been broadly interpreted. At the moment, Choi Hee-seop’s only goal is to remain in the major leagues.”