SEOUL, Feb 10 (Reuters) - South Korea’s professional baseball league have expanded the sport by introducing a ninth team to be based in Changwon.
The new team set up by the Korea Baseball Organisation (KBO) will begin competition in 2013 in the South Gyeongsang province and will be run by online game developer NCsoft after they beat two unnamed firms in a bid.
“We concluded NCsoft and the city of Changwon were all qualified to join the KBO,” Lee Sang-il, the league’s secretary general, was quoted by Yonhap news agency.
Baseball is enjoying a boom in Korea after the national team won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, silver at the World Baseball Classic the following year and gold at the Asian Games in November.
The success has not gone unnoticed in Major League Baseball with a number of top Korean players featuring in America such as pitchers Park Chan-ho and Kim Byung-hyun and recently slugger Choo Shin-soo.
The Korean league rules, however, could leave the new team struggling to acquire the 50 to 60 players it needs.
According to the current regulations, a newly established team will receive its top two picks at the annual rookie draft and may carry three foreign players, one more than the other teams, for the first two years.
It may also acquire one player from each existing team who are not among the 20 ‘protected players’ but even with these concessions, the new team will still run short of the number of players it needs.
Despite the concerns of player shortage, Korean media reports say a 10th team could be added to make an even number in order to ensure smoother scheduling.
With an odd number, one of the teams has to skip three games every week, thus disrupting the rotation of starters and reducing the overall number of games played in the league.
“The foundation of amateur baseball will expand only when more teams are created,” former manager of Hanwha Eagles’ minors Choi Dong-won told the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper.
“This will allow promising young players to advance to the pro league.”
Korea’s professional baseball league started in 1982 with six teams and added Binggrae (now Hanwha Eagles) in 1986 and Ssangbangwool (now SK Wyverns) in 1990. (Reporting by Tan Jinhe. Edited by Patrick Johnston; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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