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KBO players to participate in All-Star Game, threat over expansion withdrawn

All Headlines 11:51 July 13, 2012

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, July 13 (Yonhap) -- The interest group representing baseball players in the nation's top circuit said Friday its members will participate in the annual All-Star Game, retracting an earlier threat to sit out the mid-season festivities in protest to the league's reluctance to expand.

The Korea Professional Baseball Players Association (KPBPA) said it reaffirmed the willingness of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) to work on adding a 10th club to the league.

"The KBO offered clear explanations that it will try to approve within this year the expansion into the 10-team setting," said Park Choong-sik, the association's director general. "We also confirmed the KBO's intention to prepare for expansion, including forming a separate organization of baseball experts tasked with laying the groundwork for the 10th team."

On Tuesday this week, presidents of nine KBO teams decided after their board meeting to ask the league commissioner's office to resume discussions on expansion. Last month, they said they would put any expansion talks on hold, drawing the ire of the players' association and fans.

Kim Sun-woong, the KPBPA's secretary general, said the league pledged it will convene a board meeting immediately after the championship Korean Series in October to discuss expansion. Once the proposal is approved, then the league will try to determine the home city and the corporate sponsor, so that the new club can enter the annual rookie draft in the summer of 2013.

Kim and Park both said they weren't entirely pleased with the way team presidents passed the buck to the Commissioner Koo Bon-neung, but added they have faith in the league boss to carry out the work.

"We will cooperate with the KBO so that Commissioner Koo can forge ahead with the expansion," Park said. "I'd also like to ask fans and all baseball people to support the commissioner so that the KBO can approve the expansion as soon as possible."

The expansion, which would be the KBO's second in less than two years, has been a hot potato off the field this year. The boycott of the All-Star Game would have been a devastating blow to the league riding an unprecedented run of popularity.

The KBO gave the green light to the founding of its ninth club, the NC Dinos, last year, and they will join the KBO next season after a year in the minors. Since the expansion, baseball players and officials have called for a 10th team so the KBO will have an even-number of teams and reduce scheduling headaches. They've also argued the KBO should take advantage of baseball's massive popularity by adding teams in different regions and tapping into new markets.

Opponents have countered that adding another club so soon after the first expansion would water down the talent level across the league and hurt the quality of baseball. They've also said the local amateur talent pool isn't large enough to feed 10 professional clubs.

KBO clubs are owned by private companies, including some major conglomerates such as Samsung, Doosan and LG.

So far, two regional governments have declared their intentions to host the 10th KBO club.

The city of Suwon in Gyeonggi Province, just south of Seoul, submitted its letter of intent in March last year. North Jeolla Province formed a consortium of four cities and towns -- Jeonju, Gunsan, Iksan and Wanju -- to push its case in August last year.

Suwon and Jeonju have been home to two now-defunct KBO teams, the Hyundai Unicorns and the Ssangbangwool Raiders, respectively. Both regional governments have pledged to offer full support to the corporation that steps in as the title sponsor for the potential 10th team and to foot the bill for remodeling of an existing stadium or construction of a new one.

Both regions believe a new baseball team would revitalize local economies and galvanize their communities around the nation's most popular sport.

The KBO, which had its first season in 1982, has set a single-season attendance record in each of the past three seasons and is on pace to top 7 million fans this year for another record.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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