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One last chance

Park wants to pitch in Korea, but faces obstacles

He knows his time is almost up, and admits he is no longer able to throw his 160 kph fastball. But Park Chan-ho believes he can still be part of the game and take the mound.

The 38-year-old veteran pitcher was released last month by the Orix Buffaloes. Park, who joined the Japanese club before the 2011 season on a one-year deal, pitched only seven games, going 1-5 with a 4.29 ERA.

After the disappointing season, he is now trying to come back here and pitch for his local club, the Hanwha Eagles.

If he can, it will be his first time to pitch in Korea. He flew to the United States in 1994 to join the Los Angeles Dodgers, making him the first Korean-born major leaguer.
Park Chan-ho was an All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers. (File photo)
Park Chan-ho was an All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers. (File photo)

Park visited the Korean Series last week and met with officials to address his wish to finish his career here. As badly as he wants this, however, it seems that his comeback won’t be easy.

According to Korea Baseball Organization’s rules, Korean players who played abroad can join the KBO league through the first-year player draft.

That means Park has to wait until the next draft in September 2012, and then wait another six months to be on the mound. And considering his age and physical condition, he admits, it will leave him with little time to play.

But Park is hoping to gain an exemption from the rules and start pitching next season. The Eagles, which have a priority right to sign with him, have submitted a petition, asking the KBO to consider revising its rule.

However, any change would require approval from all eight clubs in the KBO league, and most of them, with the exception of Hanwha, are against the idea, noting that it is not fair to them.

Over the next few weeks, the KBO and the club representatives will discuss the matter and make a decision on the case.

Park is appealing for the officials’ help, saying that it could be his last chance to play in front of home fans.

While playing 17 years in the Major Leagues, Park pitched for seven teams, most recently the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010. He became a free agent after that season but failed to grab interest from the top teams.

Park left the Major League in 2010 to join the Orix club, with a career record of 124-98 with a 4.36 ERA. He still holds the record for most major league wins by an Asian-born pitcher. 

By Oh Kyu-wook