Hur Min. (Illustration by Park Gee-young)
On May 26, 38-year-old Rockland Boulders pitcher Hur Min beat the Quebec Capitales 12-9 in the Can-Am league, an independent baseball league in the U.S. and Canada.
That day, Hur showed off his knuckleball ― a baseball pitch thrown so as to minimize the spin of the ball, resulting in an unpredictable motion that most players find hard to hit.
That first win is said to have been an emotional moment for the entrepreneur-turned-athlete, who started his professional baseball career at the age of 36.
His victory was also inspiring for those in South Korea who witnessed the tech billionaire transform into a professional sportsman by pursuing his childhood dreams.
The game against the Quebec Capitales took place less than a year after Hur announced his resignation as CEO of social commerce firm WeMakePrice in July 2013 to focus on his baseball career. He currently is still the largest shareholder of Wonder Holdings, the mother company of WeMakePrice and its affiliates.
The former amateur player for Seoul National University’s baseball team said he had learned how to throw a knuckler from the legendary pitcher Phil Niekro, and that he would like to devote himself to the sport.
However, this is not his first venture into the world of baseball. In 2011, Hur established Korea’s first independent baseball team, the Goyang Wonders. He poured 5 billion won ($4.9 million) into the project, recruited former SK Wyverns coach Kim Sung-keun and has spent 1 billion won annually. Within two years, a total of 12 players had been recruited by professional teams in Korea, proving that Hur’s risk-taking paid off.
And baseball is not the only area Hur has been successful in.
He became an instant billionaire when he sold his firm Neople to Nexon in 2005 after the company’s role playing game “Dungeon and Dragon” had huge success in China, with 2 million players logging on simultaneously.
His next venture, WeMakePrice, became the most-visited social commerce site in February 2014 thanks to aggressive marketing and tight compliance management.
Hur has reportedly shared over 100 billion won, which is half the profit he earned from selling Neople, with his staff. In return, his old colleagues joined his WeMakePrice project in 2011. They stayed with Hur through the ups and downs and still work for the company even though he stepped down.
“I am not a technician. I am interested in the people behind that technology and what they are capable of doing. I am proud that those who I grew up with (business-wise) still choose to work by my side. That, to me, is much more important than money,” said Hur, who has said on numerous occasions that what he values are dreams and spirit, not money and power.
Hur has also reportedly given a congratulatory bonus to Goyang Wonders players who joined Korean Baseball Organization teams, rather than accusing them of breaching contract. He said, “My goal is to provide shelter to players who need a second chance. If they can find their market value once again, I cannot ask for more.”
Hur said he has enough money ― the newspaper Chosun Ilbo estimates that his wealth exceeds 1 trillion won. He said his next goal is to become a major leaguer. “With my rare knuckleball skill I hope I can play baseball until I’m 50. And I hope I can play for a major league team,” he said in an interview.
He has previously said he is interested in buying an MLB team.
“It would be the ultimate dream come true,” he said.
“Hur is an inspiration to many people because he doesn’t only talk about dreams but shows the process of achieving them by following them,” an online commerce insider said.
By Bae Ji-sook (email@example.com)