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Old Pitcher Dreaming of Returning to the Field

Posted June. 23, 2007 04:33,   


“I am Healthy”-

Park Cheol-soon, who had surgery to remove a tumor in his colon last December, looked a little thinner but healthy. He still had his “killer smile” with the corners of his mouth curled up. He had more wrinkles and a broader brow as he experienced hair loss when he underwent treatment for a disk in his back.

Park said, “I just got rid of a small tumor, and some media reported, ‘Park Struggling against Colon Cancer,’ without even checking the facts. A commercial ad contract I was about to make was cancelled after the report (laughing).”

Park receives a regular check-up every three months since the surgery. The result of the check-up last March was “nothing abnormal.” He smokes and drinks alcohol these days as he thinks that stress from repressing desire is more harmful.

“I have had more than enough pain. I survived several surgeries for a disc in my back and for my Achilles’ tendon, which were like a death sentence for a baseball player. Such a small tumor cannot defeat me,” he said.

“Comeback? Given an Opportunity”-

Park felt his passion for baseball coming back when he participated in Doosan’s “Forever 21” event held at the Jamsil Baseball Stadium on June 10.

He said, “Old memories came back when I met with Doosan Head Coach Kim Kyung-moon, who was my catcher when I pitched in the old days. Then, I just wished I were back in the dugout with my old colleagues in a Doosan uniform.”

Park retired in 1997, folding his 15-year pro league career. After serving as a playing coach for one year, he left OB (old Doosan). Will he not come back to the field?

“Coaching is not for me. I can play but can’t coach because of my quick temper. A good coach should be able to watch players patiently. I don’t have the patience,” he said.

Park refused to take offers from some pro baseball teams. When asked what he would do if Doosan made an offer, he answered, off the record, “I will ponder it for a long time. I may say ‘OK.’ I mean, I may want to become an assistant coach to head coach Kim.”

“Businessman Park? Still Lots to Learn”-

Park is chairman of “Moden Tech,” an LCD manufacturer in Gunpo. He plunged into the business world upon his friend’s encouragement. The company grew to become an enterprise of middle standing with 150 employees and 30 billion won of annual sales.

He said, “I am still clumsy in meeting people and doing business. I have a lot to learn as a businessman.”

He has his own business philosophy. Although he is a CEO, he is living a simple and frugal life. He does not carry a corporation card around in order to not spend money on unnecessary things. He drives himself except on long drives.

“21, My Number, is like Home”-

Park started baseball in his sixth-grade days when his elementary school launched a baseball team. It became his life. Doosan designated his number, 21, as a retired number in 2002. He had the number on his back when he played in the Milwaukee Brewers’ minor league team as the first Korean in the U.S. pro baseball league.

Back to Korea in 1982, the year when Korean pro baseball league was launched, he was selected as MVP with a record of 24 wins, four losses, seven saves and a 1.84 ERA. He also made a world record of 22 consecutive wins in one season. He survived seven injuries to retire in 1997 with a record of 76 wins, 53 losses, 20 saves, and an ERA of 2.95.

What was his most unforgettable moment as a baseball player?

“I pitched against MBC (currently LG) when I had not fully recovered from a back injury in 1983. Falling to the ground as MBC batter Song Yeong-woon’s ball hit my back, I thought, ‘My life is over,’” he said.

“I Enjoy Living Alone”-

Park is living by himself at an apartment in Dapsipli-dong. Asked whether he feels lonely, he said, laughing, “I enjoy being alone. And my two sons have joined my company.”

After his retirement, he has not kept in touch with other players.

He said, “Baseball is like my heart’s home, and I wanted to meet new players in my team. But I do not want to be misunderstood as coming to beg for a living.”

Whenever he sees Doosan playing on TV, he cannot take his eyes off of the game. He stated, “Your elbow bends inward. I always cheer for my old team.” Park looks like his heart is still on the mound.