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Slugger Park Byung-ho being watched by MLB scouts

2015/04/30 11:22

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, April 30 (Yonhap) -- When Nexen Heroes first baseman Park Byung-ho, two-time South Korean baseball MVP, steps into the batter's box Thursday, he will have more than a few sets of watchful eyes tracking his movements.

According to the Heroes, a Seoul-based Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club, scouts from six Major League Baseball (MLB) teams have applied for credentials to watch the Heroes at Mokdong Stadium in Seoul this week.

When the Heroes opened their three-game series at home against the Lotte Giants on Tuesday, scouts from the Texas Rangers, the Washington Nationals, the Baltimore Orioles, the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians were in the stands. The game on Wednesday was rained out.

The Heroes said a scout from the Pittsburgh Pirates applied for credentials for Thursday's game.

Park led the KBO in home runs in each of the past three years and was voted the MVP in 2012 and 2013. Last year, he hit 52 homers to become only the third KBO player to surpass the half-century mark.

Park is eligible to be posted for MLB clubs after this season, pending the Heroes' approval. Before the season, Park said he's long dreamed of playing in the big leagues.

Kang Jung-ho, Park's former teammate on the Heroes, was posted last winter and entered the silent auction among big league teams. The Pirates won the bidding for Kang and later inked him to a four-year contract. Kang has been getting limited opportunities as a utility infielder so far in 2015.

Kang is the first South Korean position player to jump from the KBO to the majors.

An official with the Heroes said it wasn't clear if the scouts were in attendance to specifically watch Park, adding, "I only heard they're here to watch the whole league."

   One scout who went to Tuesday's game, who declined to be identified by his club, told Yonhap News Agency there is interest in Park among the scouts. None of the six teams has a glaring hole at first base at the big league level, but the scout explained it won't prevent members of his brethren from coming out to watch Park.

"This is the time of the year when we come out to games and compile reports (to submit to the front office)," the scout added. "Obviously, we can't just watch games on television. Ideally, we'd like to come out and watch batting practices and games."

   In January, an informed source had told Yonhap News Agency that Octagon, a U.S.-based agency that represents Kang Jung-ho, had also signed Park as its client and compiled a player profile, complete with Park's statistics and career highlights, for MLB clubs. Octagon also got in touch with at least two big league teams, the Oakland Athletics and the Boston Red Sox, while Park and the Heroes were training in Arizona.

Both Park and the Heroes have been careful not to bring the player's future into the spotlight, hoping his potential destination won't be a distraction for the club.

Park, listed at 185 centimeters (6 foot 1 inch) and 107 kilograms (236 pounds), made his KBO debut with the LG Twins in 2005 but was a fringe player until a midseason trade to the Heroes in 2011.

He hit below the Mendoza Line in three of his first four KBO seasons. After joining the Heroes in 2011, Park hit 11 homers in 18 games in September.

In 2012, Park picked up right where he left off and blossomed into a star with 31 homers and 105 RBIs. He won his first MVP that year, and then did even better in 2013, hitting 37 homers and driving in 117 runs, while raising his batting average from .290 to .318.

Last year, Park again set career highs with 52 homers and 124 RBIs, and finished second in MVP voting.