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(LEAD) Pitcher voted by peers as top player after rejecting match-fixing offers

Sports 16:34 December 03, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS comments in paras 10-11)

SEOUL, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) -- A pitcher was voted by his peers as the top player of the 2018 South Korean baseball season on Monday for turning down match-fixing offers.

The Korea Professional Baseball Players Association (KPBPA) named Doosan Bears' right-hander Lee Young-ha the winner of the Player of the Year honors at the 2018 Players' Choice Awards.

The KPBPA created the awards in 2013, with all active Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) players casting votes for the best player in the league each year.

Lee Young-ha, right-hander for the Doosan Bears, speaks after being named the Player of the Year at the 2018 Players' Choice Awards, presented by the Korea Professional Baseball Players Association, during a ceremony in Seoul on Dec. 3, 2018. (Yonhap)

The KPBPA said its top individual prize rewards players not just for their on-field excellence, but also for exemplary behavior and professionalism off the field.

Lee received a call from a player-turned-broker on April 30 and was offered cash in exchange for walking players. Lee turned him down and blocked the phone number, but got another call from the same broker using a different number two days later. Lee again rejected the offer and reported the case to his club, which in turn informed the KBO.

Last Tuesday, the KBO awarded him 50 million won (US$45,000) for his action, and the 21-year-old said he would donate the prize money to his alma mater and charities.

Lee wouldn't have merited the award based on his performance on the mound. The second-year right-hander went 10-3 with a 5.28 ERA in 40 regular season games. He spent the early part of the season in the bullpen but became a starter in late July.

Lee went 5-0 in his final seven regular season starts with a 3.27 ERA in 41 1/3 innings.

"I didn't expect to receive this award," Lee said in accepting his trophy. "I'll try to win awards with my pitching performance next year."

Lee said he didn't feel as if he'd done anything special by rejecting the fixing offer.

"As a professional baseball player, I was offended to receive that offer," Lee said. "We all received training on how to deal with a situation like that, and I only did what I was supposed to do. And the club took care of the rest. I never thought it would lead to an award like this."

The KBO has dealt with match-fixing scandals in recent years, leading to convictions of the implicated players.

In other categories, SK Wyverns' left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun grabbed two trophies as the Pitcher of the Year and the Comeback Player of the Year.

In this file photo from Nov. 12, 2018, Lee Young-ha of the Doosan Bears throws a pitch against the SK Wyverns in the top of the second inning of Game 6 of the Korean Series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Kim missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing an elbow operation, and returned this season to post an 11-8 record and a 2.98 ERA -- his lowest in eight years -- for the Korean Series champions. Kim recorded the save in the clinching Game 6 of the Korean Series against the Bears.

Kim Jae-hwan, a slugging outfielder for the Bears voted by the media as the regular season MVP, was named the Hitter of the Year on Monday. He led the KBO with 44 home runs and 133 RBIs.

Han Dong-min, who belted a career-high 41 home runs and earned the Korean Series MVP award for the Wyverns, was voted the Most Improved Player. KT Wiz wunderkind Kang Baek-ho, who led all freshmen with 29 home runs and 84 RBIs, was voted the Rookie of the Year by fellow players.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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