This year has been remarkable for the Korean baseball league. First, it set a record with 6.4 million spectators. The 28-year-old baseball league also marked its 100 millionth spectator in May.
Yet, the Korea Baseball Organization is set for another milestone, as it looks into a proposal for a ninth baseball team.
The KBO reached a memorandum of understanding with Changwon to set up a new team in the South Gyeongsang Province city.
With the full support of the city, NCsoft Corp., a online game developer, submitted last week a letter of interest to the KBO.
Two other companies have expressed strong interest in launching a new club.
The decision is now up to the KBO’s board of directors, comprised of presidents of the current eight teams. The representatives are to meet on Jan. 11 to decide.
|The KBO drew a record 6.4 million spectators in the 2010 season. Fans enjoy a game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (The Korea Herald)|
An official from the KBO also hinted that the board members will be hammering out a set of proposals which, if accepted, would lead to a new era in Korean baseball.
One of the proposals is understood to be dividing the league into two as early as the 2012 season.
The idea of introducing two separate leagues is, in fact, a long-held aim of the KBO.
The KBO, which was established in 1982, started the league with six teams and expanded it to the current eight-team league in 1991.
“We’re marking the 30th anniversary in 2012, and by the year, I hope we can start two separate leagues,” KBO president Yoo Young-koo said.
Top baseball leagues, such as Major League Baseball and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball, all run two separate leagues.
MLB consists of the 16-team National League and the 14-team American League.
And the NPB, which was formed in 1950, operates 12 teams that are divided into two six-team leagues ― the Pacific and Central.
Many agree that the two-league system would revolutionize baseball here, but the question is whether Korea is ready for such a change.
One of the big concerns is the supply of players. A minimum of 50 players are needed to operate a professional team, but it would be hard for a new team to manage so many athletes.
Some claim the KBO should consider bringing in more foreign players, but this would require a change in rules.
For each team, only two foreign players are allowed.
“It won’t be easy but two leagues are necessary for the future,” said Gu Kyung-back, secretary-general of Ilgoo, the association of baseball officials.
“The KBO will have to decide when would be the best time, but I believe the sooner the better,” he added.
“People should know that there are big differences between the ideal and reality,” said Huh Goo-yeon, a commentator and also a member of the KBO technical committee.
“It takes time and a lot of money to establish a new club. I think we need more time to prepare,” he added.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)