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MLB looking to 'increase footprint of baseball' in S. Korea

All News 11:43 September 16, 2022

By Yoo Jee-ho

INCHEON, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) -- Well aware of a huge fan base for baseball in South Korea, Major League Baseball (MLB) is looking for ways to help grow the game's popularity here, a senior official with the league said Friday.

MLB is bringing the "FTX MLB Home Run Derby X" to the western city of Incheon on Saturday. The new bracket-style competition features four teams representing iconic MLB franchises: the Boston Red Sox, the Chicago Cubs, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees.

At a press conference introducing the event at Paradise City Hotel, next to Incheon International Airport, Charlie Hill, MLB's vice president of international strategy, said staging the home run derby in the Asian country can go a long way toward helping the baseball community here grow.

Participants of the "FTX MLB Home Run Derby X" pose for a group photo at Paradise City Hotel in Incheon, about 30 kilometers west of Seoul, on Sept. 16, 2022. From left: ex-Korea Baseball Organization player Park Yong-taik, former major leaguer Nick Swisher, U.S. baseball player Ashton Lansdell, U.S. softball player Erika Piancastelli, ex-Mexican gymnast Daniel Corral, South Korean short track speed skater Kwak Yoon-gy, U.S. softball player, Alex Hugo, ex-KBO player Jeong Keun-woo, U.S. softball player Jocelyn Alo, ex-KBO player Lee Seung-yuop and former major leaguer Adrian Gonzalez. (Yonhap)

Participants of the "FTX MLB Home Run Derby X" pose for a group photo at Paradise City Hotel in Incheon, about 30 kilometers west of Seoul, on Sept. 16, 2022. From left: ex-Korea Baseball Organization player Park Yong-taik, former major leaguer Nick Swisher, U.S. baseball player Ashton Lansdell, U.S. softball player Erika Piancastelli, ex-Mexican gymnast Daniel Corral, South Korean short track speed skater Kwak Yoon-gy, U.S. softball player, Alex Hugo, ex-KBO player Jeong Keun-woo, U.S. softball player Jocelyn Alo, ex-KBO player Lee Seung-yuop and former major leaguer Adrian Gonzalez. (Yonhap)

"We know that there is a huge baseball community of both fans and players in Korea, and we want to continue to find ways to support and engage with that community," Hill said. "It's also important for us to find ways to help support the growth of that community as well. And central to that is finding ways to engage with new and younger fans of the sport so together we can help increase the footprint of the baseball community in Korea. And that's why we're doing things like the 'Home Run Derby X initiative.'"

In this home run derby, hitters will swing at 25 pitches and take up to 10 pitches. They will get one point for every home run and also earn points by hitting targets -- two of them set up 160 feet from home plate and another two beyond the outfield fence.

The opposition will have players in the outfield, and a catch of any ball that fails to clear the fence is worth a point.

"'Home Run Derby X' is an electrifying new baseball format, which really builds on a lot of the most compelling part of our sport, power hitting, and mixes in some unique elements to really showcase the sport to new audiences," Hill said. "It is very deliberately designed as a simple and fun format of baseball that helps new fans particularly but also existing fans celebrate and enjoy the sport."

Charlie Hill, Major League Baseball's vice president of international strategy, speaks during a press conference at Paradise City Hotel in Incheon, about 30 kilometers west of Seoul, on Sept. 16, 2022, ahead of the "FTX MLB Home Run Derby X." (Yonhap)

Charlie Hill, Major League Baseball's vice president of international strategy, speaks during a press conference at Paradise City Hotel in Incheon, about 30 kilometers west of Seoul, on Sept. 16, 2022, ahead of the "FTX MLB Home Run Derby X." (Yonhap)

Each team will have a former big leaguer (Legend), a softball or women's baseball star (Superstar) and an influential content creator (Wild Card). The new category of Hero has been added for the South Korean event only.

Lee Seung-yuop, who holds the record for most home runs in Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) history with 467, will be the Hero for the Cubs. Lee is also the all-time leader in RBIs (1,498), runs (1,355) and total bases (4,077).

The Samsung Lions legend, who retired in 2017, will be teammates with former Cubs catcher Geovany Soto (Legend), U.S. softball player Alex Hugo (Superstar) and football YouTuber Spencer Owen (Wild Card).

Park Yong-taik, who retired in 2020 as the KBO's hits leader with 2,504, will be representing the Red Sox at the derby, along with former outfielder Jonny Gomes, softball player Jocelyn Alo and British football freestyler Liv Cooke.

Kim Tae-kyun, second on the all-time list with 1,141 walks and third with 2,209 hits, will be part of the Yankees, joined by former outfielder Nick Swisher, American softball player Erika Piancastelli and ex-Mexican artistic gymnast Daniel Corral.

Kim, who played until 2020, one of just two players in KBO history with at least a .300 batting average, 2,000 hits, 300 home runs, 1,000 RBIs and 1,000 walks.

Jeong Keun-woo, who retired in 2020 as the KBO's career leader in hits (1,877), RBIs (722) and runs (1,072) as a second baseman, will be trying to go deep for the Dodgers. Jeong's teammates will be ex-first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, U.S. women's baseball player Ashton Lansdell and South Korean Olympic short track speed skating medalist Kwak Yoon-gy.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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