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Reigning MVP Park Byung-ho leads baseball All-Star reserves

Reigning South Korean baseball MVP Park Byung-ho headlined the list of All-Star reserves announced on Wednesday.

Park, the slugging first baseman for the Nexen Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization, was among 12 reserves named to the Western League, made up of players from the Heroes, the LG Twins, the Kia Tigers, the Hanwha Eagles and the NC Dinos.

The All-Star Game will be held on July 19 in Pohang.

Park, 27, won his first career MVP award last year as the KBO leader in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage. Through Tuesday’s games, Park leads the league in home runs and RBIs, and is ranked second in slugging percentage and hits. 
Reigning Korean baseball MVP Park Byung-ho ( Yonhap News)
Reigning Korean baseball MVP Park Byung-ho ( Yonhap News)

The Heroes are in second place, just half a game behind the two-time defending champions Samsung Lions, as they chase their first playoff appearance in franchise history.

Park was joined by three Nexen teammates, pitchers Kang Yoon-gu and Son Seung-lak, and catcher Heo Do-hwan.

The Dinos produced three All-Stars: pitchers Charlie Shirek and Lee Jae-hak, and outfielder Na Seong-beom.

The Tigers also had three reserves: catcher Cha Il-mok, shortstop Kim Sun-bin and outfielder Na Ji-wan. The last-place Eagles will be represented by two pitchers, Kim Hyeok-min and Song Chang-sik.

The Twins swept up all 11 starting positions for the Western League after a fan vote ― eight position players, one starting pitcher, one relief pitcher and one designated hitter.

The Eastern League, featuring players from the Lions, the SK Wyverns, the Doosan Bears and the Lotte Giants, had more diversity in the starting lineup. Six Lotte, two Samsung and two SK players were voted in as starters, and one Doosan player was voted in.

The Eastern reserves had five from Doosan, three from Samsung, three from SK and one from Lotte.

The five Doosan All-Stars are: pitchers Oh Hyun-taek and Hong Sang-sam; catcher Yang Eui-ji; infielder Oh Jae-won; and outfielder Lee Jong-wook.

From Samsung, pitcher Ahn Ji-man, catcher Jin Kap-yong and outfielder Bae Young-seop were named reserves. SK’s three reserves are pitchers Chris Seddon and Park Hee-soo, and shortstop Park Jin-man. The one Lotte reserve is pitcher Kim Seong-bae.

Managers of each All-Star team named six pitchers, two catchers, two infielders and two outfielders as reserves.

Ryu Joong-il, manager of the Lions, and Sun Dong-yol, manager of the Tigers, will each manage the Eastern and the Western leagues at the midsummer affair.

All in all, there are eight first-time All-Stars for the Eastern League and 12 first-timers for the Western League.

Seddon and Shirek, plus LG’s Radhames Liz, voted in as the Western starting pitcher, are the only foreign players among 19 to make the All-Star teams.

The Twins joined the 2012 Lotte Giants as the only teams to sweep up all starting All-Star positions.

According to the KBO, the voting went from June 10 to July 7 via a local Web portal and the KBO smartphone application. The ballot-stuffing left out some star players with superior statistics.

Park Byung-ho, for instance, finished second among Western first basemen, about 200,000 votes behind LG’s Kim Yong-eui, who only has two homers and 20 RBIs this season.

Yeom Kyung-yup, manager of the Heroes, said on Tuesday he found it odd that Park couldn’t be named an All-Star starter. In 2012, Kia starter Yoon Suk-min, the 2011 MVP, didn’t get voted in as an All-Star starting pitcher.

Yeom opined that the league’s best players should be voted in as starters while the managerial choices for reserves should include up-and-comers with future All-Star potential, but said it seems to be “the other way around” in the KBO.

Kang Jung-ho, shortstop for Nexen, is among the snubbed players. He enjoyed his first 20-20 season in 2012 with 25 homers and 21 steals, and this year, he is second in the KBO with 56 RBIs and leads all shortstops with 11 dingers.

In the Eastern League, Samsung’s infielder Chae Tae-in was left off by his own manager, Ryu Joong-il, despite batting a career-best .367 in 177 at-bats. (Yonhap News)