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KBO slugger Kim Tae-kyun apologizes for insensitive remarks on African-American pitcher

All Headlines 11:59 June 11, 2013

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korean baseball All-Star Kim Tae-kyun has apologized for insensitive remarks on an African-American pitcher delivered in a baseball radio show.

In the radio program that aired online on Monday, Kim, the slugging first baseman for the Hanwha Eagles in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), was quoted by one of the show's two hosts as mocking the skin color of Shane Youman, a starting pitcher for the Lotte Giants. Youman, 33, is a native of New Iberia, Louisiana, and is pitching in his second KBO season.

The host, a baseball reporter for a local sports newspaper, said he'd asked cleanup hitters of KBO teams which pitcher they found the toughest. According to the host, Kim told him, "Youman's face is so black and that makes his teeth seem whiter. When he smiles on the mound as he throws, I tend to lose the ball in his teeth. That has fooled me often."

Though Kim didn't come on the air and made these comments, the words still sparked debate online. The radio program's message board was inundated with demands for Kim's apology. There were a few others who defended Kim, saying the player didn't say anything insensitive and was only trying to be funny.

Known as a genial man off the field, Youman has been an almost polar opposite on the field and isn't known to smile much during his starts.

The weekly baseball program airs at 1 p.m. every Monday, an off-day for KBO, on the major local Web portal Naver, and each episode is quickly made available for streaming.

Hours after Kim's comments aired, the player issued his apology through the Eagles, but insisted the words were taken out of context.

"Regardless of the truth of the comments, I'd like to offer Youman my apology," Kim was quoted as saying by the team. "I had meant to tell the reporter that Youman's delivery makes him a difficult pitcher to hit against from a hitter's perspective, and that he's a great player."

Kim spent the 2010 and a part of the 2011 season in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league and said he can relate to fellow KBO players from overseas as well as any Korean player because of his own experience in a foreign league.

"I am close friends with our own Denny Bautista (a pitcher from the Dominican Republic) and other foreign players," Kim added. "As a public figure, I will try to be more considerate from now on."

The host in question has apologized to both Kim and Youman on the program's message board and said he will also issue an apology on air in next week's episode. According to the Eagles' front office, the host has also called Kim to apologize.

During Monday's show, the second host, also a local baseball reporter, insisted that he didn't think Kim meant to make any racist comment or simply tried to be funny.

He said Kim tends to look at the pitcher's hand at the top of the delivery to determine the type of pitch and the color of Youman's teeth can indeed confuse Kim.

Youman wasn't immediately available for comment. The Giants are hosting the Nexen Heroes at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at their home, Sajik Stadium, in Busan, but Youman isn't scheduled to start.

His last start came last Friday against the LG Twins who chased the left-hander after 3 1/3 innings with six earned runs on 10 hits. Youman is 6-3 with a still-solid 3.68 ERA in 71 innings.

Kim was the KBO batting champion last year with a .363 average and is batting .321, eighth in the league, for the last-place Eagles this season.

The Giants and the Eagles will square off in Busan for a three-game series starting Friday.


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