Former Major League pitcher Park Chan-ho said he wants to pitch in Korea not for the money, but for his passion. He proved it on Tuesday by signing a one-year deal with the Hanwha Eagles on the minimum salary of 24 million won ($20,540).
The 37-year-old was paid $1.2 million a year while playing for the Japanese outfit Orix Buffaloes. He was released by the team in October after a disappointing season, going 1-5 with a 4.29 ERA.
The Eagles initially planned to sign him on a 400 million won ($342,000) deal with an option of another 200 million won, but announced plans to donate the money to help nurture amateur baseball, in keeping with Park’s wishes.
“It doesn’t matter how much I earn. I just want to give something back to society, and become a role model for other young players,” Park said Tuesday during a signing ceremony in Seoul.
Park said that he was looking forward to wearing his No. 61 jersey for the first time in front of home fans.
“Today is really special. Over the past 18 years, I’ve been longing to play baseball in my country, and the dream has finally come true.”
Park, who made his professional debut with the L.A. Dodgers in 1994, has never played in Korea’s top pro baseball league.
He has played for numerous clubs, including the Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates. In 17 years in Major League Baseball, Park set a record among Asian players with 124 career wins.
He left the MLB in 2010 to join the Buffalos.
Hanwha’s signing of Park came just a week after the Korea Baseball Organization revised its rules to allow the first Korean-born Major leaguer to play here.
Under the previous rule, Park would have had to enter the KBO draft in August and, if picked, wait until 2013 to be eligible. But the KBO passed a special rule last week enabling Park to join the 2012 season.
The former MLB pitcher said he is now focused on finishing his career in the KBO.
Asked how long he would be on the mound, Park said: “I don’t know, but I’m just focused on preparing for next season, I want to win the league title.”
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)