Both former and active players as well as fans are turning up the heat on professional baseball clubs to create a 10th team, which was postponed indefinitely last Tuesday.
An association of retired baseball players issued a statement on Tuesday, supporting active players’ declaration to boycott this year’s All-Star Game in protest against the indefinite delay of adding a new team.
A day earlier, the Korea Professional Baseball Players’ Association held an emergency board meeting and declared its refusal to take part in the All-Star Game slated for July 21, unless there was a positive debate of the creation of a 10th team. The association also vowed to boycott all league games for the rest of the season if the Korea Baseball Organization, the pro sport’s governing body, punishes players who refuse to compete in the All-Star Game. Under the KBO regulations, an All-Star Game boycott may bring a 10-game ban.
The group of former players denounced the KBO board, which consists of club chief executives, for putting off the new team creation under the pretext of a lack of players and concern for lowering the quality of local pro baseball. It called the board decision irresponsible and anachronistic.
“The nine-team system will jumble the game schedule and impede the development of Korean pro baseball,” retired players said in the statement. “Those baseball clubs that oppose a 10th team addition should keep in mind that the current high popularity of the sport is never the result of only the efforts on the club side.”
Pro baseball players discuss (existing) clubs’ indefinite postponement of the creation of a 10th team on Monday. (Yonhap News)
Pro baseball is the most popular sport here in Korea, which saw the number of spectators exceed 6.8 million last year and expects 7 million this year.
The 31-year-old Korean pro baseball league approved the launch of a ninth team, the NCsoft Dinos based in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, last month. The team is to enter the league next season. An odd number of teams in a league, however, will disrupt the game schedule. With nine clubs, one team will have an off weekend.
Clubs and the KBO seem to be embarrassed at the strong backlash by both active and retired players, and KBO officials expect clubs to work out some measures before the opening of the high-profile event featuring top players.
For now, the pro baseball governing body and baseball clubs are not commenting on the matter. But they are likely to meet soon to discuss the players’ opposition. Local media expect such a discussion to come at the earliest possible monthly meeting of senior club officials scheduled for July 3.
“The boycott declaration is regrettable. We will arrange a meeting with clubs to discuss the matter,” Yang Hae-young, KBO secretary general, told reporters.
What the players’ association wants is a KBO board explanation of acceptable reasons for the postponement of a 10th team.
“The KBO board is responsible for the 10th team decision. I want them to make clear which clubs opposed the team addition for what reasons,” Park Choong-sik of the players’ group said.
“I expect clubs to take a position on the boycott sooner or later. They are unlikely to let it as it stands,” a KBO spokesman said.
However, club fronts declined to comment on the boycott.
Over the league’s history, players have made boycott declarations three times in 2001, 2003 and 2004, but they never put it into practice.
Meanwhile, over half of the public was found to want the creation of the 10th team. According to a poll of 750 adults by Realmeter on June 22, 51.5 percent supported the addition of a new team, with 9.0% opposing it.
By Chun Sung-woo (email@example.com