Chong Tae-hyon, who induced the gold medal-winning double play ball against Cuba at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, announced his retirement on Wednesday after 17 professional seasons.
The 39-year-old submarine pitcher told Yonhap News Agency his ailing would no longer allow him to pitch in the Korea Baseball Organization. His last KBO game came with the Lotte Giants in 2016, and he only made 10 appearances for the Giants' affiliate in the Futures League, the KBO's minor league.
"Since I couldn't be of any help to the club, I thought I'd be better off retired," Chong said, adding he'd informed the Giants before they set up their 40-man roster for protection from the annual secondary draft Wednesday.
|In this file photo taken on April 5, 2016, Chong Tae-hyon of the Lotte Giants throws a pitch against the SK Wyverns in the top of the seventh inning of their Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Sajik Stadium in Busan. (Yonhap)|
Chong is considered the greatest submarine pitcher in KBO history, but the reliever also made his mark in international play.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Chong was the only amateur player on a team that won bronze medal. He posted a 1.35 ERA in 13 1/3 innings.
He also represented the country at the 2006, 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classic, 2008 Summer Olympics, 2010 Asian Games and 2015 Premier 12.
Chong's defining moment came in the gold medal game against Cuba at the 2008 Olympics. With South Korea clinging to a 3-2 lead, Cuba loaded the bases with one out for future major leaguer Yuli Gurriel. Chong got him to hit into the game-ending 6-4-3 double play, lifting South Korea to its first Olympic gold in baseball.
"Every game that I played wearing the national flag has been a huge honor," Chong said. "I am happy that fans still remember those moments fondly."
In the KBO, Chong pitched for the SK Wyverns from 2001 to 2011, and was an integral part of the club that won the KBO championships in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
He signed a free agent deal with the Giants before the 2012 season.
For his career, Chong recorded 106 saves with a 46-29 record and a 2.21 ERA in 662 appearances. He ranked top five in the KBO in saves three times.
Before joining the Giants during the 2011 offseason, Chong engaged in contract talks with the Baltimore Orioles, who reportedly offered him a two-year contract worth US$3.1 million with a spot on the 40-man roster, but the pitcher failed a physical.
He started experiencing some knee and elbow issues during the 2016 season, during which he was limited to 17 1/3 innings across 24 appearances.
Chong said even though he'll stop playing, he will not leave the game of baseball entirely.
"I've never once thought about doing anything not related to baseball," Chong said. "I'd like to become a coach and stay connected to baseball and to fans that way." (Yonhap)