Banned NC Dinos players rejoin Futures League squad
NC Dinos outfielders Kwon Hui-dong and Lee Myung-ki and infielder Park Min-woo, who received a 72-game ban after breaking Covid-19 quarantine rules, were included on the roster for the first Futures League game of the season on Tuesday.
The three players, alongside infielder Park Sok-min, were at the center of the Covid-19 crisis that forced the KBO to cancel a week of games in the middle of the 2021 season. Park Sok-min has not been included on the Futures League roster.
The four players gathered in a hotel room while on the road in Seoul on July 5, 2021, eating chicken and drinking beer with two acquaintances. The gathering breached Covid-19 social distancing rules, which at the time limited group meetings to four people, and went late into the night.
Three of the four NC Dinos players later tested positive for Covid-19, with only Park Min-woo, who had been fully vaccinated as a member of the Olympic squad, testing negative.
The infections spread to the Doosan Bears, who the Dinos were playing at the time, and eventually caused the KBO to halt all games from July 13, one week before the Olympic break was supposed to begin. Park Min-woo did not compete at the Olympics.
The breach of Covid-19 rules angered fans, who have, on the most part, been following strict rules that limit the number of people able to attend baseball games, require them to sit in separated seats and ban alcohol or food from the stands.
The Dinos also faced criticism for not immediately revealing that their players had breached the rules. Each player was fined 10 million won ($8,800) and the Dinos were fined 100 million won for the oversight.
The Kiwoom Heroes and Hanwha Eagles later announced that they had also disciplined players who met people outside of the team while away at road games.
The 72-game ban was handed down with 70 games remaining of the 2021 KBO season. The first two games of the 2022 season played over the weekend complete the 72-game requirement, and the four players are now clear to return to the team.
But while the four have completed their KBO-mandated ban, they now have separate bans to serve from the Dinos. The club has suspended Kwon, Lee and Park Min-woo from the top tier for 25 games and Park Sok-min, who was the senior player and seen as something of a ringleader, for 50 games.
Assuming they are able to get back in shape, the three younger players will be able to return to the Dinos KBO squad next month. Park Sok-min will have to wait until early June before he is eligible to attempt a comeback.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]