Archive for the 'Korea' Category

KBO Openers Rained Out

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) was supposed to have five openers Saturday. Rain postponed all the games except the Samsung Lions and Kiwoom Heroes. The Heroes play in Gocheok Skydome, which is indoors.

The Heroes won 6-1 getting seven strong innings from Eric Jokisch. Woo-hyun Song drove in two in a three run sixth to lead the offense.

Foreign Players in the KBO

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

Each team is allowed three foreign players, but no more than two can be hitters or pitchers. All the teams break out their roster with two pitchers and one hitter. The KBO season will start on April 3, the latest start of all the professional leagues. Unlike last year, ESPN will not be televising games. Below is the list of foreign players.

Doosan Bears

Pitchers - Walker Lockett RHP, Ariel Miranda LHP

Hitter - Jose Miguel Fernandez

Hanwha Eagles

Pitchers - Ryan Carpenter LHP, Nick Kingham RHP

Hitter - Ryon Healy

Kia Tigers

Pitchers - Daniel Mengden RHP, Aaron Brookes RHP

Hitter - Preston Tucker

Kiwoom Heroes

Pitchers - Eric Jokisch LHP, Josh Smith RHP

Hitter - David Freitas

KT Wiz

Pitchers - William Cuevas RHP, Odrisamer Despaigne RHP

Hitter - Zoilo Almonte

LG Twins

Pitchers - Casey Kelly RHP, Andrew Sucrez LHP

Hitter - Roberto Ramos

Lotte Giants

Pitchers - Enderson Franco RHP, Dan Straily RHP

Hitter - Dixon Machado

NC Dinos

Pitchers - Wes Parsons RHP, Drew Rucinski RHP

Hitter - Aaron Altherr

Samsung Lions

Pitchers - David Buchanan RHP, Ben Lively RHP

Hitter - Jose Pirela

SSG Landers

Pitchers - Wilmer Font RHP, Artie Lewicki RHP

Hitter - Jamie Romak

New KBO Team Named

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

In the three professional Asian Leagues teams are named after the corporations that purchase them. They may play most of their games in a particular city but the corporation gets some free advertising by having the team named after them.

The SK Wyverns in the Korean Baseball Organization was recently purchased by Shinsegae Groups E-Mart. They will be named the SSG Landers. The “landers” name is derived from the fact that Incheon International Airport is located near the clubs west coast home. For most traveler’s to arrive in South Korea they will have to “land” at Incheon International Airport.

Sk Telecom were the previous owners of the Wyverns. This will be the sixth different ball club for the city of Incheon. In 1982 Sammy Superstars was the first ball club to play in Incheon. The Chungbo Pintos followed them in 1985. The Taepyungyang Dolphins took over in 1988. In 1996 Incheon welcomed the Hyundai Unicorns. The Unicorns moved to Suwon but could not stay afloat as a franchise, later becoming the Kiwoom Heroes. The SK Wyverns took over for the Ssangbangwool Raiders in 2000 and moved them to Incheon.

Information for this piece was extracted from Yonhap News Agency courtesy of MYKBO.net.

KBO Salaries Drop

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

For the second straight year salaries for players from the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) have dropped. Yonhap News reported that the average salary, excluding rookies and foreign players, for the 532 players remaining was $108,720. In 2020 that average salary was $128,319. In 2019 it had reached a record $139,073. The rookie salary is equivalent to $23,996.

The KBO claimed this drop was because of the departure of a number of veteran players, either through retirement or playing major league baseball. The league is also getting younger, with the average age dropping from 27.3 to 27.1. When trying to decide between keeping an aging veteran or a minimum wage rookie, when both players have an equal level of production, most teams will go with the rookie.

The recently signed Shin-soo Choo is the highest paid player in the KBO, excluding foreign players (about $2.4 million). The champion NC Dinos Eui-ji Yang is the second highest paid player and ex-major leaguer and now Kiwoom Heroes first baseman Byung-ho Park is third. Choo’s teammate of the old Sky Wyverns (still no official team name yet) Choi Jeong is the fourth highest paid player making a little over $1 million. So now you see the incentive of players wanting to go to the major leagues or even the KBO where the salaries are much higher, even if you go from a starter to a utility player.

The Padres signed Ha-Seong Kim to a four year contact for $28 million per year with an option that could increase that to $39 million. That is $7 million guaranteed, where the highest paid Korean player in the KBO is Choo at $2.4 million.

Choo to Play for Parents and Korean Fans

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Shin-Soo Choo has never played professional baseball in Korea. He played for South Korea when they won the gold medal in the 18 and under World Cup back in the early 2000s. Choo was voted the MVP and top pitcher of the event. The Mariners signed him for $1.35 million and converted him to the outfield. That is when his professional baseball career started. In the United States.

South Korea referred to him as their version of Ichiro Suzuki. He may not have put up the numbers as Ichiro, but he had a pretty good career and like Chan-ho Park before him, Koreans are proud of his accomplishments. In his 16 year major league career he hit 218 homeruns and batted .275. He played for the Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds.

At 38 years of age coming into the 2021 season he became a free agent. After signing a seven year $130 million contract in 2014 with the Texas Rangers he didn’t really need the money. So what was he to do? There were multiple paths he could take. Eight major league teams were offering him money, but there was no guarantee of significant playing time. He could retire and enjoy life with his family. Or he could play in Korea, where many fans had not seen him play.

A couple of those fans who had not seen him play were his parents. He tried to get them to the United States last year to watch him but the pandemic with the corona virus did not make that possible. So he decided to sign with the SK Wyverns for $2.4 million and and take his game to them. To play at least one more year. In Korea. Now, for the first time his parents and those in South Korea can watch him play. He may not have the skills that he had when he was 27 but Choo still thinks there is still enough in his game that he can make a difference for the team.

A number of years ago another Korean player decided to end his playing career in Korea. That player was Chan-ho Park. He pitched for the Hanwha Eagles, going 5-10 with a 5.06 ERA in 23 starts. He was 39 years old when he returned to Korea for the first time to play in the Korean Baseball Organization. Choo has decided to take a similar path.

Three KBO MVPs in Major League Spring Training Camps

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

People tend to focus on the Japanese players who are looking to the major leagues. But Korea is having a large impact on major league rosters, especially the pitching staffs. So large, that there are now three KBO Most Valuable Players in major league spring training camps.

The most popular is Ryu Hyun-Jin, who had a few years with the Los Angeles Dodgers and now pitches for the Toronto Blue Jays. Ryu won his MVP in 2006. He has also won a gold medal for Korea in the Olympics. Injuries have had an impact on his career, but when healthy he has proved to be one of the top pitchers in the major leagues. He was 14-6 in his rookie year with the Dodgers in 2013 and in 2019 was second in Cy Young voting, leading the major leagues in earned run average (2.32) and finishing 14-5 in 29 starts. Ryu signed with the Toronto Blue Jays last year and went 5-2, 2.69 ERA. He is expected to be a front line starter for the Blue Jays in 2021.

The second MVP is St. Louis Cardinals starter Kim Kwang-hyun. He won his Korean MVP in 2008. Kim came over to the major leagues last year, was going to pitch in the Cardinals bullpen, but injuries moved him to the starting rotation. He became the ace of the Cardinals staff with a 3-0 record and 1.62 ERA in seven starts and one relief appearance. The Cardinals will rely on Kim to be one of their top starters in 2021. Injuries early in his career slowed his move to the major leagues.

The Rangers have signed former KBO MVP Yang Hyeon-jong to a minor league contact. He had a rough year last year, but won the MVP in Korea in 2017. Though he signed a minor league contract, Yang has the stuff to stick in the Rangers roster, either as bullpen help, or in the rotation. One of the advantages he has is he is one of the few lefthanders the Rangers have in camp. One of the pitchers he will be competing with for the starting rotation is Japanese pitcher Kohei Arihara, who the Rangers signed this year.

It is interesting to note that all three Korean pitchers throw from the left side.

Yang and Yamaguchi Blast From the Past

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Lefthanded pitcher Hyeon-jong Yang recently signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers. Shun Yamaguchi was recently released by the Toronto Blue Jays. Yang was the starter for Korea in the Premier 12 finals between Japan and Korea. Yamaguchi was the starter for Japan.

While the game was to determine the qualifications for the Olympics scheduled for 2020 and now postponed to 2021, Japan had already qualified by hosting the games. Korea had also qualified by appearing in the championship. So the game was played mostly for pride and prize money. Yamaguchi was knocked out in the first inning, giving up two homeruns. Japan ultimately won the game 5-3. Interesting how the two pitchers have now entered upon different paths to their major league careers.

The big game was when Mexico defeated the United States 3-2 to qualify for the Olympics. Those pitchers were Cody Ponce and Arturo Reyes. Ponce pitched well tossing five shutout innings. He also made his major league debut in 2020 with the Pirates. Reyes also pitched five shutout innings but has never appeared in a major league game. He has spent a lot of time in the minor leagues. Last year he pitched in Taiwan in the China Professional Baseball League, getting only four starts for the China Trust Brothers.

International Baseball Travel

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

With the corona virus still heavily on our plate, it may not be the best time to write about travel. But there is a website that is hoping to spark the interest of travel to all points of the world to watch baseball. It is Japanball.com and their link is in the lower right hand corner of my blog. You can click on Japanese baseball to find the website.

The trips planned for 2021 include the traditional Japan trip. They also hope to have trips to Europe and South Korea. In the fall the hope is to visit the Dominican Republic to watch some winter league ball and visit a few baseball academies. Myworld has been to all these areas to watch baseball, but it is much more enjoyable when you do it in a group.

Shane Barclay organizes the travel. He runs Zoom calls that have had special guests such as Kim Ng, general manager of the Miami Marlins, Trey Hillman, now coach of the Marlins and the manager of the SK Wyverns in Korea and the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, and Sandy Alderson now with the New York Mets. Shane has also worked for major league baseball helping them organize the World Baseball Classic events. He is no relation to Shane Barclay who is a manager in the Australian Baseball League. Bob Bavasi used to organize the Japan trips but he transferred the business to Shane, who has expanded the trips outside of Japan.

Myworld can tell you of the nightmares we have experienced trying to travel to some of these places. Waiting in long lines to buy tickets and not progressing in the line because ticket buyers are cutting in front of the line to buy tickets or take a place in line so you can buy their place in line. Taking a taxi who takes you a few miles out of your way so he add fare to the ride. Or even have to negotiate with a driver for a rate he feels he can get out of you because you are a tourist. These are some of the challenges my world has faced traveling alone to various countries to watch baseball.

But there are the many joyful experiences. Eating the very different ball park food in the stadiums. Hot dogs can be found but they are not a commodity popular at the international ballparks. Being soaked in beer in Panama because beer is so cheap there and if the home team is winning in the ninth inning everyone buys a cup of beer. When the home team wins the beer is tossed in the air. You can open your mouth at that point and probably get drunk. Empanadas are more popular in Panama than hot dogs.

The bento boxes in Japan that are filled with all sorts of sushi and fish. I could probably eat two bento boxes and still be hungry after the game. And who can forget the beer girls in Japan who carry pony kegs on their backs and pour out beer for you.

Getting strangled by the streamers in Taiwan after a big win. It feels you have been ensnared in a spider’s web, but everyone is screaming for joy that it is a good experience. There are also the cheerleaders in the Dominican Republic and South Korea that are a big part of the game. Don’t know if the Dominican Republic still emphasize the cheerleaders since it has been awhile since myworld has been in that area, but watching the do the merengue is an experience.

You also get to experience the fan enthusiasm in the stadium. In the Netherlands they had an opera singer belt out a tune in the seventh inning. In Japan teams would blow up balloons and let them fly after the end of the top of the seventh. This tradition is now being discouraged because of the health concerns.

There is also the sightseeing that can be done when not at the ballpark. The night markets in Asia, the tulips in Netherlands. In the Netherlands you have a greater chance of being hit by a bicycle than a car when you walk the streets. There are also the beaches in the Dominican Republic and the fish market in Japan. Sumo wrestling was also a common theme for many of the Japan trips. A little sumo in the afternoon and baseball at night.

So if you get the chance and you can afford the coin myworld would recommend you try a trip. What can be better than international travel to watch a baseball game. Just tell Shane that myworldofbaseball sent you.

SK Wyverns Sold to Shinsegae

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

One of Korea’s biggest retail stores in Korea, Shinsegae Group has agreed to purchase the SK Wyverns. The Wyverns were owned by SK Telecom, one of Korea’s largest mobile carriers. The purchase price is estimated at $122 million.

The Wyverns were not a team known for handing out big contracts. This has resulted in the fall of a franchise that once consistently made the playoffs. The contract is expected to be signed February 23. With that will probably come a name change for the franchise. Teams in Korea are named after the corporations that owns the team.

The Wyverns joined the league in 2000 after taking over for the departing Ssangbangwool Raiders. They won four Korean championships with the last being in 2018. The 2007 to 2012 period were their glory years when they played in six consecutive championships. The 2020 season however was a huge disappointment when they finished in ninth place out of ten teams with a 51-92-1 record.

What could be interesting is that Shinsegae also owns a small percentage (14.5) stake in the Samsung Lions. Don’t know if that creates a conflict of interest. The KBO clubs still need to vote for the approval of the sale, with a two thirds majority required to approve.

Information for this piece was acquired from Yonhap News Agency courtesy of MyKBO.net.

First 2021 COVID Cancellation

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

The corona virus continues to reek havoc across many parts of the world. 2020 is in our rear view mirror but the corona virus has not disappeared as 2021 has arrived. In fact, it seems to have gotten more prevalent. With that the Baseball Federation of Asia has decided to cancel the Under 12 Baseball championship that was to be held in Tainan, Taiwan in March.

Because this was a qualifier event to determine the teams that would play in the 2021 Under12 Baseball World Cup in August, the Baseball Federation of Asia has decided to use the standings of the 2018 12 and under BFA championships to identify those countries. The following three teams have qualified for the 2021 Under 12 Baseball World Cup championship.

First Place - Taiwan

Second Place - Korea

Third Place - Japan

These three countries are the traditional representatives of the various age groups in World Cups.