Toward baseball teamwork“An opportunity for a passion” was the slogan of the country’s first unaffiliated baseball club, the Goyang Wonders, which ended its three-year history and was disbanded last Thursday. Baseball legend Kim Sung-keun, who had been coaching the team, apologized to his 25 players. “I am really sorry that I cannot offer more opportunities,” he said. The team’s demise is heartbreaking not just because of its performance - 96 wins, 25 ties, and 61 defeats - during its three-year stint in the Korean professional baseball league.
There had been genuine passion and devotion from technology entrepreneur Heo Min, who founded and generously supported the independent baseball team out of sheer love for the sport. But most of all, the team was a home where players shunned by professional teams could keep their dreams alive.
There had not been a truly American- or Japanese-style independent baseball league in Korea. The Wonders had been the only place athletes who weren’t drafted or recruited by major professional leagues could turn to. It’s a pity the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) and its nine corporate-affiliated baseball clubs could not demonstrate more compassion and openness for its “outlaw” peer team to prevent its breakup. Manager Ha Song said his team’s future had been shaky because it was treated as an outsider till the end. Of course it may not have been easy for the KBO or professional clubs to allow a non-member and unaffiliated team to play in the Futures League. Foreign independent leagues also do not play in the same league as the major and affiliated minor teams.
With the exit of Goyang Wonders, the Korean baseball community must try to find a way for independent baseball teams to survive. We cannot expect another devoted baseball fan like Heo, who can afford to invest 10 billion won ($9.7 million) in a league. Both independent and major leagues must be able to coexist in the professional field for diversity in the baseball community. We sincerely hope KT will keep its promise to offer seed funds to create independent teams as a condition for joining the professional league by 2015.
Joongang Ilbo, Sept. 13, Page 26