The state of Minnesota wrestles with how to safely re-open amidst a global pandemic and effective shutdowns brought on by the spreading coronavirus.
Korea Baseball Oraganzation, the top baseball league in South Korea, is slated to open its season May 5. If you’re looking for a rooting interest in that league, you have a couple of choices. ESPN has reportedly had discussions about broadcasting the games. Last week the reports said that there likely would not be a broadcast deal struck, although this week those reports were more optimistic about the prospect.
To choose a team you could dream up a city you’d like to visit, check out the stadium, and if you could see that trip in your future, post COVID-19, then maybe that’s your team. Or you could stick with the provincial angle, and root for the LG Twins. (Casey Kelly, the former Red Sox top prospect, pitches for LG.)
Or you can scan the rosters, find a couple players you recognize or want to support, and pick the team that tips those scales the most. MLB Trade Rumors has already published a rundown to that end, with the help of MyKBO.net and MyKBOstats.com.
The most famous former Twin in the KBO is ByungHo Park, who now plays for the Kiwoom Heroes. Park Bang signed as a big-ticket international free agent after mashing home runs for a decade in the KBO. He played 62 games for the Twins in 2016 and hit 12 homers with a .191/.275/.409 batting line. An injury and a change of front office meant those were the last games he would play with the Twins, although he did have a monster spring training in 2017 before he was cut.
By the end of his time with the Twins he’d played more than twice as many games at Rochester as he did in the big leagues, and he reportedly requested to be released from the final two years of his 4-year, $12 million contract. Park led Kiwoom and the league in home runs last season with 33.
Former Twins player Taylor Motter also plays for Kiwoom, who play their home games in the Gocheok Sky Dome in southwestern Seoul. Motter joined the Twins in 2018 off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. He also spent time with the Rays and Tigers, and he has hit .191/.263/.312 in his MLB career so far. He didn’t play much in Paul Molitor’s final season as manager, splitting time filling in as an infielder and outfielder.
Bonus point for Kiwoom: All KBO postseason games will be held in their home dome in November, according to a story in The Athletic.
Former Twins reliever Drew Rucinski pitches for the NC Dinos. He was on the 2017 Wild Card team in Minnesota, although he pitched just a handful of innings and spent most of the year with Triple-A Rochester. For the Red Wings, he had a 2.57 ERA in 63 innings, with 57 strikeouts and 10 walks. Last year was his first season in the KBO, and he made 30 starts and kept a 3.05 ERA. He’s teammates with ex-Orioles pitcher Mike Wright and former Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story made a factual error by not including Park.