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[Baseball] ‘Fork Ball’ Key to Choo’s WBC Success

Posted February. 27, 2009 08:58,   


Choo Shin-soo took part in his first practice yesterday with the Korean national team ahead of next month’s World Baseball Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii.

A right fielder for the Cleveland Indians, Choo is not in his best condition. He suffered a knee injury when he collided with teammate Grady Sizemore.

To make matters worse, his right ankle was bruised after being hit by a ball he hit.

A trainer of the Korean team said, “I’m more concerned about his ankle than his knee.”

Choo finally joined the national team after many turns and twists. The Indians implicitly told him not to play for Korea, but relented after agreeing to one condition: he can only play as an outfielder in one game in the Asian qualifiers and two games in the finals to be held in the United States.

Major U.S. pro teams dislike their players joining their respective national teams.

Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of pro basketball’s NBA Dallas Mavericks, is an outright opponent of letting players play for their national teams. He tries to stop his players from competing in the Olympic Games or the world championships, saying, “We pay them money. Who will compensate if they get hurt?”

The New York Yankees also pressured Taiwanese pitcher Wang Chien-ming not to play in the last and forthcoming editions of the World Baseball Classic.

Cleveland will assign a trainer for Choo during the tournament to protect its asset.

Choo is an able replacement for slugger Lee Seung-yeop of Japan’s Yomiuri Giants, who will skip the tournament to prepare for the upcoming season in the Japanese league.

Coaches say Choo is a good hitter. Korean team manager Kim In-sik also gives Choo high marks, saying he does not hesitate to hit difficult balls.

The problem is that unlike Lee, who is playing in Japan, Choo is unfamiliar with Japanese pitchers.

Korea is likely to face Japan twice in the tournament, and Choo will be expected to come up big.

The key lies in how he deals with fork balls. Manager Kim says Choo should wait patiently in the batter’s box rather than swing at what could be a bounced ball.

Striking out 78 times in 317 at bats in the U.S. majors, his aggressiveness at the plate could haunt him and Korea in the Asian qualifier of the World Baseball Classic.