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Lingering Feud and Anger among KBO Umpires

Posted August. 18, 2007 03:03,   


“I don’t know how to act and behave. It’s so tense out there!”

A pro baseball umpire, who insists on anonymity, made the comment, which implies quite a lot about the current atmosphere. According to the source, four umpires and one sub umpire never talk to each other unless the game requires so.

An umpire interviewed at Jamsil Ballpark yesterday said that he goes out for a meal with only one of his fellow umpires. Another umpire confesses, “On the surface, everything seems normal. Many [umpires] say they have to settle the situation after the season.”

Umpires went on strike on July 19 for the first time in South Korea’s 26-year pro baseball history. However, the aftermath still wreaks havoc. The Korean Baseball Organization (“KBO”) fired two umpires, Kim Ho-in and Heo Un, the following day. The other 25 umpires who had joined the strike reported for duty the next day. But the schism has widened between those who have returned and those who did not join the walkout.

Currently, 20 umpires work in the major leagues. Nine umpires, including five senior umpires, are followers of Kim Ho-in, and 11 “working” umpires support Heo.

Acting head umpire Hwang Seok-jung confesses, “[Umpires] are trying to get back to the old days. But it will take some time.”

A veteran former umpire, Park Chan-hwang, who ruled 1,849 games from 1983 to 2002, says, “The walkout attempt was obviously wrong. The KBO, however, has to take responsibility, too. It failed to maintain harmony.”

KBO senior member Lee Sang-il explains, “The ‘my-man’ mentality and personal connections dominated their world. Benefits depended on those personal factors. After this season, we will introduce a fair system for all the umpires in the major and minor leagues.”

We hope the new approach resolves the lingering problem in a peaceful and wise way.