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Baltimore Orioles apologize to S. Korean baseball for breaching protocol

All Headlines 12:52 February 11, 2012

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- The Baltimore Orioles of Major League Baseball (MLB) on Saturday, Korean time, apologized to South Korean baseball officials for an "unintentional breach of protocol" in their recent signing of a teenage South Korean pitcher.

"On behalf of the Orioles organization, I offer a sincere apology to the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) and the Korea Baseball Association (KBA) for the club’s unintentional breach of protocol in failing to tender a status check in the process of signing Kim Seong-min," said Dan Duquette, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations, in a statement. The KBO runs South Korea's top baseball league and the KBA is the governing body of the sport in the country.

The KBO had claimed Baltimore did not follow the proper steps when it acquired the 17-year-old Kim out of a high school in Daegu, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, in late January.

The KBO and MLB have a player contract agreement, under which a major league team interested in a South Korean amateur or professional player must conduct a "status check" with the KBO on the player's availability. According to the KBO, the Orioles didn't inquire about Kim's status. Officials here have said that although the step is "a mere formality," rules should still be respected.

The KBO, which hasn't directly contacted the Orioles, has already lodged a complaint with MLB, demanding sanctions on the Orioles.

MLB teams must receive KBO approval to sign professionals here, but not amateurs. Now the KBO, which has long cried foul over the poaching of talent by North America, wants to tweak the player contract agreement and ban MLB teams from signing amateurs here at all.

This week, the KBA banned Baltimore scouts from KBA-sanctioned games, including national high school and university tournaments, for the team's failure to conduct the status check. Kim has been suspended indefinitely from playing and coaching in South Korea, for his violation of a local rule preventing underclassmen from making contact with a pro club.

Players outside the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico can join major league teams as international free agents after they turn 16.

Duquette has been known for his active pursuit of South Korean players. While he was general manager for the Boston Red Sox from 1994 to 2002, Duquette signed three South Korean pitchers, Kim Sun-woo, Cho Jin-ho and Lee Sang-hoon, all of whom reached the majors during Duquette's tenure.

Late last year, Duquette was in pursuit of another South Korean free agent, right-hander Chong Tae-hyon. The KBO All-Star, however, had medical issues and instead signed with a Korean team. Then in January of this year, the O's signed a little-known right-hander Choi Eun-chul to a minor league deal.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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