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Baseball Stars Returning to Korea

Posted May. 17, 2007 03:57,   


Coaching staff-

The SK Wyverns are leading this season’s Korean pro baseball league standings. Though it has no players coming back from bigger leagues of foreign countries, it has two coaches with overseas experience. Manager Kim Sung-geun was the first-ever Korean to coach a Japanese club. He was coach of Japan’s Chiba Lotte Marines for two years starting in 2005. SK’s head coach Lee Man-soo was the first-ever Korean to be a coach on a Major League club thanks to his stint with the Chicago White Sox. The Samsung Lions, Korean champions for two consecutive seasons, have Sun Dong-yol, a legendary pitcher, as its manager. Sun was a relief pitcher for the Junichi Dragons of Japan for four years starting in 1996.


Since 1994 when Park Chan-ho (New York Mets) became the first Korean Major Leaguer, Korean pitchers have rushed to play overseas. Many of them have come back to Korea. One can make a perfect lineup of starters, relief pitchers, and closers from those players who played overseas, returned home, and are still active.

The starters would include Bong Jung-geun, the former Cincinnati Reds player now playing for the LG Twins; Choi Hyang-nam, who came back to the Lotte Giants from the Cleveland Indians; and Chung Min-chul (Hanwha) and Chung Min-tae (Hyundai), two former Yomiuri pitchers.

The bullpen would include Lee Seung-hak (from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Doosan Bears), Song Seung-jun (from the Kansas City Royals to Lotte), Cho Sung-min (from the Yomiuri Giants to Hanwha), and Kim Il-yeop (from Philadelphia to Lotte). Koo Dae-sung is a relief pitcher who has pitched for the Orix Blue Wave and the New York Mets.


There are batters in the Korean Leagues with overseas experience, too, albeit fewer in number than pitchers. Choi Hee-seop and Lee Jong-bum (Kia Tigers) are first basemen who came back from the U.S. and Japan, respectively. Kwon Yun-min, the only Korean catcher to ever play in a foreign country, is also a Kia player. Choi Kyung-hwan (Lotte, former California Angel) is the first Korean outfielder with an overseas career history. Chae Tae-in (Samsung, Boston Red Sox), another outfielder who returned to Korea, is a former pitcher.

These players add to appeal of this season’s games, which have already attracted over one million spectators this year in the shortest time ever since 1997.