SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean officials have sent a letter of protest to Major League Baseball (MLB) accusing the Baltimore Orioles of breaking protocols in signing 17-year-old schoolboy pitcher Kim Seong-min.
The Korea Baseball Organisation (KBO) told Reuters on Tuesday they had demanded an explanation as to why they had not been informed discussions were taking place between the Orioles and Kim and that their MLB counterparts were examining the case.
Although there is nothing stopping foreign teams from signing Korean amateur players, the process needs to be done after making inquiries to the KBO first, the organization said.
“We have sent an official complaint to MLB,” said Michael Park, the KBO’s operations manager. “We were told they will look in to the case.
“They are investigating whether the Orioles did sign Kim to a contract.”
The Orioles announced on their website(www.baltimore.orioles.mlb.com) last week they had signed Kim, who has represented South Korea at under-18 level.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette told the website: “We are glad to sign a player that our scouts feel is one of the top amateur left-handed pitchers in South Korea.
“Kim has an excellent curveball and very good control.”
The KBO were furious about an MLB team poaching the country’s young talent.
“Scouting a high school student is something that the MLB doesn’t do to players of their own country,” said Park, refusing to comment on Duquette’s statement.
“The comment of Mr. Duquette is not something the KBO can discuss or reply to since we are not in talks with the team but rather the MLB.
“The MLB will let us know once they have decided upon a proper measure of response.
“Poaching our players like this makes it difficult for (South Korea) to keep its scouting rules tight and to develop our youth sports programs.
“We only have 50 high school teams and taking promising players away like this makes it very hard for Korean baseball to stay strong.”
Kim made a name for himself pitching for Daegu Sangwon high school, about 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
While several Korean high school graduates have joined MLB teams before entering college in the past, Kim will be only the second sophomore to ink a deal, if indeed he has.
Bong Jung-keun signed for the Atlanta Braves as an amateur free agent in 1997.
Writing by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by Patrick Johnston