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Local baseball governing body bans Baltimore's scouts after controversial signing
SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean governing body of baseball has banned scouts from the Baltimore Orioles in Major League Baseball (MLB) from attending local games, after the Orioles signed a teenage pitcher in a controversial move.

   The Korea Baseball Association (KBA) announced Thursday it has informed the MLB commissioner's office and the Orioles of its decision, saying scouts from all major league teams in the future signing Korean student athletes not in the final years of their schools will be banned from KBA-sanctioned games. That will include all national high school and university tournaments, often frequented by major league scouts.

   "To prevent a further exodus of top prospects, we will limit (major league teams') access to players," the KBA said.

   The Orioles in January acquired pitcher Kim Seong-min, a 17-year-old left-hander about to enter his final year in high school and reportedly signed him for US$550,000.

   Kim became only the second South Korean high school sophomore to join a major league club. The KBA prohibits players from contacting local or foreign baseball teams before their final years of study, either at high school or university, and on Wednesday, banned Kim indefinitely from playing and coaching in South Korea for his violation.

   The Orioles' signing also stirred a controversy about major league clubs' poaching of young South Korean players. While major league clubs are free to sign any Korean player they wish within the rules, including undrafted high school students or graduates, baseball officials here have long complained MLB clubs' signing of players can make it difficult for South Korea to develop youth baseball programs.

   Separately from the KBA, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), which runs the nation's top baseball league, has lodged a complaint with MLB over the Orioles' alleged violation of a clause in an agreement between the KBO and MLB.

   If a major league club wishes to contact an amateur or professional Korean player who is currently playing or has played in the country, the club must first check the player's status and availability with the KBO.

   jeeho@yna.co.kr
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