(ATTN: ADDS more comments in last 4 paras)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, May 8 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean baseball league on Friday decided to demote an entire crew of five umpires to the minors, in a swift response to a player's open criticism of their performances.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said five umpires who worked a game between the SK Wyverns and the Hanwha Eagles on Thursday will be sent down to the Futures League for "retraining."
The Eagles won the game 8-4. And toward the end of his post-game TV interview, Hanwha outfielder Lee Yong-kyu asked for an extra moment to speak on behalf of other players.
"Even though it's only been three games this season, a lot of players are really unhappy with the lack of consistency on ball-strike calls," Lee said. "I'd like to ask all the umpires to please be more considerate of the players. We're all very confused (with the inconsistent zone). I know the umpires are doing their best out there, but I just hope they should start seeing things from the players' perspective, too."
The crew that called the game had Lee Ki-joong as home plate umpire and crew chief, Jang Jun-young at first, Won Hyun-sik at second, Choi Su-won at third and Kim Jun-hee as an alternate.
They have already been assigned to different games for Friday. They will move down to the Futures League on Saturday.
The KBO also asked players to refrain from publicly criticizing umpires and to show more respect toward officials.
Prior to Friday's game in Seoul, Lee said he'd only wanted to discuss players' frustration, and nothing more.
"I'd read about the umpires' demotion on my way here, and I don't have anything to say about that decision," Lee told reporters at Gocheok Sky Dome before facing the Kiwoom Heroes. "I didn't mean any harm. I said what I said because I want all the players to be able to perform at a high level."
Lee said he will try to keep his focus on the field from now on. Asked if he would criticize umpires again if he isn't happy with their calls, Lee responded, "I haven't thought about that. But umpires are humans, and I think they're bound to make mistakes."
Lee said he didn't think he could be disciplined for his public criticism of umpires and added, "I was only trying to speak from my heart."
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