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(LEAD) S. Korean ball club owner makes pitching debut for U.S. team

All Headlines 10:48 September 02, 2013

(ATTN: ADDS team president's comments in last 5 paras)

SEOUL, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- Hur Min, the owner of a South Korean independent baseball club, on Sunday made his first pitching appearance for an American independent league club.

The 37-year-old entrepreneur who owns the Goyang Wonders made his debut for the Rockland Boulders in the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball, commonly called the Can-Am League. Starting against the Newark Bears, Hur threw three innings and gave up five runs on five hits and four walks. He also hit two Newark batters.

The game was streamed live via the Internet for viewers in South Korea. The Boulders lost the game 6-2.

The Wonders said Hur's primary pitch is the knuckleball and called him last week "the first South Korean knuckleballer to reach a U.S. league."

They said he learned to throw the pitch under the Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, who won 318 games in his 24-year big league career. Hur, however, never played organized baseball before joining the Boulders.

Against the Bears, Hur threw his very first pitch, a knuckleball, for a strike, but then threw four straight balls to walk the leadoff man. Then with the bases loaded with two outs, Hur gave up a bases-clearing double.

He retired the side in order in the second inning with three fly outs, but gave up two more runs in the third with a home run. He was relieved after hitting the first batter he faced in the fourth.

Headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, the Can-Am League is made up of two teams from New Jersey, one team from New York and two from Quebec. These clubs have no affiliation with Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, and the level of play is said to be comparable to that of Class A in the minors.

The Can-Am League's season will end Monday in the U.S. The Boulders didn't qualify for the playoff, which will begin on Wednesday.

After the game, Jamie Keefe, Rockland's manager, told local broadcasters that Hur will need to improve the velocity and control of his knuckleball.

Ken Lehner, president of the Boulders, said Hur received a standing ovation as he left the game in the fourth inning, a sign that he said showed people's appreciation for the South Korean's hard work.

"He was living the dream," Lehner said. "And he worked for it."

According to Lehner, Hur began taking steps to get his work visa in June but only obtained it last Tuesday. He had to fly to Toronto to get it, the team's president said, and now he can work in the U.S. for the next three years.

On their website, the Boulders billed Hur's signing as the arrival of "Min-sanity," a play on the term "Linsanity," coined for an NBA guard Jeremy Lin during his sensational start to his career with the New York Knicks last year.

Lehner suggested Hur's tale should be made into a film in South Korea and added, "I don't see why he can't be in our rotation (next year)."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
(END)

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