Baseball official to meet with MLB players of Korean descent to gauge WBC interest: sources

A senior official of the Korean national baseball team will travel to the United States this week to meet U.S.-born major leaguers of Korean descent and gauge their interest in representing South Korea internationally, sources said Thursday.

Per industry sources, Youm Kyoung-youb, technical director for South Korea at the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC), was scheduled to fly to the U.S. on Thursday and meet with about a handful of big leaguers of Korean descent.

Upon being named technical chief in July, Youm, a former manager and general manager in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), had said South Korea would keep its doors open for foreign-born players of Korean descent.

The WBC, sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) in partnership with Major League Baseball (MLB), allows players to compete for countries of their parents’ birth, even if the players themselves weren’t born there. That is why the U.S.-born stars Freddie Freeman (Canada), Manny Machado (Dominican Republic), Sergio Romo (Mexico), Bo Bichette (Brazil) and Mike Piazza (Italy) have donned different colors at the WBC or at qualifying games for the WBC. Many members of the Israel team at the 2017 WBC were American citizens of Jewish heritage.

Candidates for Korea include: Tommy Edman of the St. Louis Cardinals, the 2021 National League Gold Glove winner at second base born to a Korean mother and an American father in Michigan; Texas Rangers right-hander Dane Dunning, whose mother is Korean; and Toronto Blue Jays minor league pitcher Mitch White, also born to a Korean mother.

Boston Red Sox outfielder Rob Refsnyder was born in South Korea but adopted by an American family as a baby.

According to the sources, the KBO had wanted to dispatch Youm to the U.S. in July or August, but MLB Commissioner’s Office asked for more time to lay groundwork for players’ participation in the offseason tournament.

The 2023 WBC, the fifth iteration of the competition, will run from March 8-21.

Korea finished third at the inaugural event in 2006 and runner-up in 2009. The country failed to get out of the first round at each of the next two editions, in 2013 and 2017.

Korea will take on Japan, Australia, China and a qualifying tournament winner in Group B. All Group B matches will be played at Tokyo Dome in the Japanese capital from March 9 to 13.

The first round will feature four groups of five teams for round-robin play, and the top two finishers from those four groups will advance to the quarterfinals.

While in the U.S., Youm also plans to meet with the two active South Korean big leaguers, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays and Kim Ha-seong of the San Diego Padres. (Yonhap)

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