Veteran Wyverns catcher announces retirement
The 41-year-old veteran catcher Park Kyung-oan of the SK Wyverns yesterday announced his retirement. The front office of the Wyverns told the Korean media that Park informed the team he was hanging up his glove in his end-of-season meeting.
However, Park will continue his career with the Wyverns, acting as manager of its Futures League team, the equivalent to the major league’s AAA division, from next season.
The Wyverns said Park decided to retire because injuries made it impossible for him to stay on the field. He had two ankle surgeries in the last two years but was still unable to play catcher all season. Because Park was out of action, the Wyverns signed veteran free agent Cho In-sung, formerly with the LG Twins, after the 2011 season.
“I have been considering it [retirement] for years,” Park told Ilgan Sports. “And I thought this is the time because I can’t play any more as a catcher. My first goal is to foster many young prospects that the Wyverns can utilize at anytime. I will try to teach everything I learned during my 23-year career.”
Park has been considered the best catcher in KBO history. He made his debut with the Ssangbangwool Raiders in 1991, switched to the Hyundai Unicorns in 1998, and then joined the SK Wyverns in 2003.
As a veteran club house leader, Park led the Wyverns to three Korean Series championships. In his 23-year career, he played 2,043 games and produced 1,480 hits, 314 home runs, 995 RBI and 75 stolen bases. He was the KBO home run king in 2000 and 2004, and won four gold gloves, and in 2001 he became the first catcher ever to join the 20-20 club, hitting 20 home runs and stealing 20 bases in a season. In 2001, he also became the only player to hit homers in four consecutive at-bats in one game.
“Considering his great leadership in the club house and his excellent career in baseball, we have always considered [Park] a future Wyverns leader,” said Min Kyung-sam, the general manager of the Wyverns.
“I first considered joining a coaching-training program on a major league club team, like other retired veterans do, but I felt like I preferred to stay on the field with the players,” Park said. “I truly thank the Wyverns who offered me a great opportunity and promise that I will try my best to improve the farm team.”
BY KWON SANG-SOO, YU BYUNG-MIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]