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New S. Korean baseball team in Australia hoping to expand opportunities for castoffs

All Headlines 15:03 May 21, 2018

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, May 21 (Yonhap) -- An all-South Korean team set to join the Australian Baseball League (ABL) next season will expand opportunities for unsigned amateurs and castoffs, officials said Monday.

The ABL and South Korean sports management firm Winter Ball Korea signed an agreement on the founding of the yet-to-be-named ball club in a ceremony in Seoul on Monday. Winter Ball Korea will oversee the club's management, and Seoul-based sports marketing company Happy Rising will handle marketing and promotions for the team, which will be the first non-Australian club in the ABL and also the first all-Korean ball club to compete in a foreign league.

Cam Vale, CEO of the Australian Baseball League (L), and Kim Hyun-soo, head of Winter Ball Korea, pose with a contract for the founding of an all-South Korean club in the ABL starting in the 2018-2019 season in a ceremony in Seoul on May 21, 2018. (Yonhap)

"This is an Australian sporting first, to have a team from outside Australia to enter the league based in Australia," said ABL's CEO Cam Vale at the press conference after the ceremony. "Australia is a strong sporting country and it's rare to have a new and innovative announcement like this. The entire ABL league and teams and all the fans in Australia are looking forward to welcoming this team and building a new and strong partnership together."

Vale also said Australia and South Korea already have strong relations in areas such as tourism, trade and education and added, "Sporting relations will strengthen these ties and hopefully lead to new relationships in the future."

The new team will be based in Geelong, 75 kilometers southwest of Melbourne. The ABL currently has clubs in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. A typical ABL season runs from November to the following February.

Winter Ball Korea said players released by or retired from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) clubs will have a chance to make the new ABL team. And the team will also be open to South Korean players in the U.S. minor leagues, since the ABL season runs during the U.S. offseason, and open tryouts will be held in September for amateur players who don't get selected in the annual KBO rookie draft.

Former Hanwha Eagles outfielder Kim Kyeong-eon, released by the KBO team after last season, has already committed to play for the new ABL club. The 35-year-old batted .271 with 55 homers and 393 RBIs in 1,183 KBO games.

According to Winter Ball Korea, 30 players plus five members on the coaching staff -- one manager, three coaches and one trainer -- will be on the new club before the season. The goal is to complete the hiring of the coaching staff, which will include one Australian instructor, and the official team launching ceremony will be held in Australia in October.

Winter Ball Korea added it will try to have a South Korean cable station and a portal site to televise ABL games live in South Korea. A documentary chronicling the founding days of the new club will be produced, the company added.


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