Wonders’ years are near an end

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Wonders’ years are near an end

Last Thursday at Goyang Baseball Stadium, the office once used by Manager Kim Sung-keun and the banner with the slogan of the Goyang Wonders “Give opportunities to enthusiasts” were gone.

The country’s first and now-defunct independent baseball club announced it would disband on Sept. 11, three years after it was established.

The team recruited players who failed to make it into the professional league and gave them another chance. Twenty-nine of them, including two who are about to play in the Korea Baseball Organization, moved to professional baseball.

Huh Min founded the club in 2011 and hired Kim as the manager, who was well known for getting results.

Former businessman Huh invested more than 10 billion won, or $900,000, over the past three years, but in the end the team failed to join the KBO’s second division league.

The team was gone, but some 20 players still practiced last week at Goyang Baseball Stadium. Kim also left the team and moved to the Hanhwa Eagles, taking three coaches with him.

The Goyang Baseball Stadium will be used by the NC Dinos for their second-tier games starting next year, and the remaining Wonders members need to leave the ballpark by Wednesday.

On Thursday, Coach Lee Sang-hoon was practicing with seven players, the fewest in recent weeks. The players were accompanied by a crew film a documentary movie tentatively titled “Wonders.”

“Manager Kim Sung-keun called me a few days ago and asked me how the filming was going,” said director Kim Bo-gyeong. “The movie ‘Wonders’ was supposed to be about those who are moving forward, but it became the story of those who are leaving.”

The team’s former pitching coach, Kim Soo-kyeong, visited the team on Thursday. Once a star with the Hyundai Unicorns, Kim retired in 2012, then worked as a coach with the Nexen Heroes before joining the Wonders last year. He is now training for a comeback.

“I worry about the [remaining] members of the Goyang Wonders,” said Kim. “They played really well and I thought each and every one of them would succeed.”

The day the club announced it would disband was the day players came back from a two-week vacation.

“Players gathered with hope,” said Kim, “and that is why they were even more discouraged.”

Pitcher Kang Woo-chan, 24, decided to join the military in January, but he now worries about fellow pitcher Park Byeong-woo, who has a hearing disability.

“We can get some other jobs later, but how can Byeong-woo live?” he asked.

When General Manager Ha Song announced in September the team would be disbanded, Park asked some teammates if the announcement was real, and finally shed tears after seeing other members crying, Kang said.

Kim Soo-kyeong suddenly pointed at the clock on the electronic scoreboard.

“That clock is still ticking, when ours has stopped,” he said.

BY KIM WON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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