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Poll names Park Chan-ho the most popular baseballer in S. Korea

All Headlines 14:11 April 04, 2012

SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) -- Park Chan-ho, a former Major League Baseball All-Star pitcher, has been selected as the most popular baseball player in South Korea, a Gallup poll said Wednesday, as the nation's most popular sport is set to kick off its six-month regular season this weekend.

The mobile phone survey of 1,579 South Koreans adults last week by Gallup Korea showed 25.2 percent named the 38-year-old pitcher of the Hanwha Eagles as their favorite player.

Park was followed by slugger Lee Seung-yeop, who has returned to the Samsung Lions after spending years in Japan.

Slugger Lee Dae-ho, who has joined the Orix Buffaloes in Japan, and Choo Shin-soo, an outfielder for the Cleveland Indians and the only South Korean in Major League Baseball, came in third and fourth place, respectively, according to the poll.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, according to Gallup Korea.

For many South Koreans, Park was an iconic baseball player as he became the first South Korean to reach the majors in the U.S.

In 1994, he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and spent 17 seasons in the majors with seven different teams. Park won 124 games in the majors, the most by an Asian pitcher in league history.

In December, he signed a one-year deal with South Korea's Hanwha Eagles after being released from the Orix Buffaloes in Japan.

Meanwhile, the survey found that 13.9 percent selected the Lotte Giants as their favorite team out of the country's eight professional baseball clubs, followed by Samsung Lions (13.2 percent), Kia Tigers (11.3 percent) and Hanwha Eagles (8.3 percent). About 40 percent of the respondents didn't have a favorite team.

The Giants, which is affiliated with South Korea's Lotte Group, held the title for the third straight year, according to the poll.

The 2012 KBO season starts with four games starting at 2 p.m. Saturday in four cities. The defending champion Samsung Lions will open at home against the LG Twins in the southern city of Daegu.

In Seoul, the Doosan Bears will host the Nexen Heroes, while the Kia Tigers will face the SK Wyverns in Incheon, west of Seoul. In Busan, the Lotte Giants and the Hanwha Eagles will square off, the KBO said.

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