29 January 2014

An Update on the Orioles' Efforts in Korea and Kim Seong-min

Last week, I mentioned that when we tend to have a question that needs answering by someone with their feet on the ground in Korea, Yonhap News' Jee-ho Yoo is that person.  I was introduced to him when the original Kim Seong-min signing occurred and then blew up in the face of the Orioles' front office.  Amazingly, it was Camden Depot that sought out the Korean media before any of the more established news outlets in this area.  Instead, they were reporting simply the words coming out of the front office, which was obviously covering themselves.  Anyway, good times.

Continuing from last week's chat, I also asked Jee-ho for his thoughts on the aftermath of Kim Seong-min fiasco and the future of the Orioles in Korea.

JS: A couple years have passed since the Orioles were punished for their actions in prematurely signing Kim Seong-min.  Is the team still banned from KBA events?  Do it appear that the Orioles are still quite active in scouting amateur baseball in Korea?

JY: They are still banned from the KBA-sanctioned events.  When the Orioles signed a Korean pitcher (i.e., Yoon Jung-hyun) last July, I was just curious about the ban and asked the KBA about it.  I was told that their scouts remained under the ban.  Since then, I have spoken to scouts for other big league clubs.  They told me they have specifically read signs, "No Baltimore Orioles scouts allowed," or something to that extent at amateur tournaments.

I am not sure if they are even allowed to appeal the ban.  But, at the same time, the KBA said last year that it would be "difficult" to enforce the ban anyway.  Unless a scout were to show up wearing a Baltimore cap or a polo shirt with the Orioles logo, I do not think KBA officials or whoever will check IDs of every scout in the seats in every game.

When Yoon signed last July, the Baltimore scout who recruited him said the Orioles will keep looking for players in Korea within the boundaries of the rules.  I had put that in my article at the time.  At this time, though, I am not sure if they are "very active" in watching amateur baseball, but they did sign that kid, who was actually a college dropout in Korea.

JS: Is the Orioles' organization viewed differently than other MLB organizations?

JY: You know how sports fans have short memories?  I get the sense that most fans, except for the really hard-core ones, have long forgotten about the whole Kin Seong-min / Orioles situation from almost two years ago.  So, I am not sure if people here necessarily have feelings about the Orioles one way or the other.  Yes, big baseball fans would still associate the name Orioles with that status check saga, but I think they would be in the minority.

I do not know about "respect" per se, but fans here tend to follow clubs with Korean players for obvious reasons.  So the LA Dodgers were hugely popular over here in 2013, thanks to Ryu Hyun-jin, as they had been in the past when Park Chan-ho pitched there.  Fans also got a heavy dose of the Cincinnati Reds on television with Choo Shin-soo.  Now that Choo has signed with the Texas Rangers, I expect the Rangers to be Korea's favorite American League club in 2014 and beyond.

This probably has nothing to do with respect fans have but you would see a lot of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees paraphernalia around these parts, caps, shirts, hoodies, bag packs, what have you.

JS: Kim Seong-min is now in Japan playing baseball.  Have there been any updates on him?  Is he still viewed as a greedy player in Korea or has that view changed?

JY: There has not been much on Kim.  He is apparently still pitching for a Japanese college.

Poor kid.  He was still a teenager when all that circus happened.  As far as the view on him now, I think it is the same situation with the Orioles.  People have mostly forgotten about the young man and they probably do not really care one way or another.  The last time any paper wrote about him was almost a year ago.


As always, good stuff from Jee-ho.  Here at the Depot, we will continue following the Orioles' efforts in Korea and will keep an eye out for Kim Seong-min in the news.  It is still an amazing story that every Orioles' fan should be well-versed in.  Orioles scout a guy and send a positively glowing report home, team signs him for 575k, other teams confused by reported scouting report of High Schooler who was not considered a top draft pick in KBO, deal breaks down as Orioles did not follow well-known signing process and banned from contacting Seong-min for a month or two, KBA bans Orioles from events, team flies Seong-min to USA to scout and finds a player completely different from the international scout's report, Orioles do not sign him and KBA bans Seong-min, and then Seong-min goes to college in Japan to pitch.  In other words, the team was inept and severely messed up a player's life.  Hopefully, the college dropout signing will go better for the team.

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