KBO veterans relish chance to face old clubs
Three familiar faces are expected to play prominent roles for their respective new clubs and get a little redemption against their old ones in the upcoming 2011 KBO season. After leaving their previous teams under less-than-favorable circumstances last year, Ken Kadokura, Park Jin-man and Lee Bum-ho all have a different mindset when it comes to facing their old teams this year.
Kadokura, a 38-year-old veteran southpaw pitcher now with the Daegu Samsung Lions, earned 14 wins and played a key role in the Incheon SK Wyverns’ Korean Series-winning season last year. SK’s front office did not offer the pitcher a new contract because of a nagging knee injury and let him sign on with another club.
Samsung showed immediate interest in the player and after a physical and evaluation, signed Kadokura.
“I would like to pitch in a lot of games against SK this year,” said Kadokura. “I played with SK and have many fond memories. Having said that, they are the defending champions. In order to win the title this year, we have to do well against SK. I want to help my team win the Korean Series by beating SK as much as possible.”
Park, a 35-year-old veteran shortstop now with SK, was released by Samsung without any conditions and signed on with the Wyverns. He was once considered among the top shortstops in the KBO but with injuries in 2009 and the coaching staff’s decision to start younger players in 2010, Park was relegated to playing in the minors.
For Park, who signed with Samsung as a free agent in 2005 and helped the Lions to two Korean Series wins, leaving the team he played with for five years was a humbling experience.
“I think I will try to play better against my old team,” said Park.
Lee had signed a lucrative contract with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Nippon Professional Baseball league but after struggling in his rookie season in Japan last year, the 30-year-old veteran third baseman came back to Korea to play in the KBO this year. But he failed to negotiate a contract with his former club, the Daejeon Hanhwa Eagles, and instead worked out a deal with the Gwangju Kia Tigers.
“I’m disappointed with the Hanwha Eagles organization, but I’m apologetic toward the Hanwha baseball fans,” Lee said.
“It was really tough for me to sign with another club because of the fans.”
By Han Yong-seop [email@example.com]