Japan pitches All-Star game plan to KBO

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Japan pitches All-Star game plan to KBO

Korea and Japan are considering launching a rivalry baseball game between top players from both countries, according to Korean baseball officials.

Nippon Professional Baseball, the Japanese governing body of the sport, suggested that the Korea-Japan All-Star game be held in November, Korea Baseball Organization officials said. The KBO is positively considering the proposal, they said.

Yonhap News Agency first reported it. “The popularity of the Japanese baseball has shown a sign of sluggish growth in the past several years,” KBO Secretary General Yang Hae-young was quoted as saying by Yonhap. “So, it offered a Korea-Japan All Star game as part of efforts to enhance the competitiveness and popularity of baseball of its country.”

The game would be the first featuring incumbent All-Star players since the Super Game, which was meant to be a quadrennial event before it fizzled out after the third edition in 1999.

“Legend Match,” a similar bilateral baseball rivalry, was launched last year, but it only included retired baseball players. Nineteen Hall of Famers from Japan came for the duel with their retired Korean counterparts held in Seoul in July last year.

Japan’s move to resume an All-Star rivalry with Korea also reflects its improved assessment of the level of Korean baseball, the KBO officials said. Korea made it to the semifinals in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 and to the finals in the second WBC edition in 2009. Japan won both events, but lost to Korea four times en route to the two titles. Korea also won a gold medal during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.

This time, the two governing bodies are considering making the game an annual event, the KBO officials said.

“We are drafting a plan as to how to seek cooperation from the KBO teams [regarding the Korea-Japan All-Star game],” a KBO official said.

It will not be easy, however, to kick off the All-Star rivalry as early as this year, given both baseball leagues’ crammed schedules. Because of the addition of a ninth team, the NC Dinos, the KBO has added 44 games to its 532-game last season, which means the Korean Series will be held until as late as Nov. 5.

The two countries are also participating in several multilateral baseball competitions such as the Asia Series, which pit the winners of the five professional baseball leagues in the Asia-Pacific against each other in November. The Asian Games, which unlike the Olympics, are keeping baseball, will be held in Incheon in September and October next year.

Japan is also preparing to initiate the Premier 12, an international baseball tournament that it hopes will rival the WBC.

KBO officials said they are considering creating incentives to encourage KBO clubs and players to participate in as many international events as possible, including the planned Korea-Japan All Star game.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
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