Fireballer left off World Baseball Classic team due to bullying history

The best pitcher in South Korean baseball in 2022 will not represent the country at the sport’s biggest international tournament in March, all because of his history of bullying.

Kiwoom Heroes right-hander An Woo-jin led the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) last year with a 2.11 ERA and 224 strikeouts. The strikeout total is the second most in a season in league history, and a record by a South Korean pitcher. An led the league with an average fastball velocity of 153.4 kilometers per hour (95.3 miles per hour) and often reached high 150s with shocking ease. He also threw a devastating slider, nearly equally effective against right-handed and left-handed batters. 토토사이트

Under normal circumstances, An would have been a shoo-in for the national team for the World Baseball Classic (WBC). But the pitcher who has been dogged for several years by bullying at high school was left off the 30-man squad unveiled on Wednesday.

Allegations against An surfaced after he had already signed with the Heroes as a territorial pick before the 2018 KBO season. Instead of cutting bait, the Heroes suspended An for 50 games in 2018. He has been pitching for them since.

Separately, the Korea Baseball Softball Association suspended An for three years from the Olympics and the Asian Games. This equates to a lifetime ban because, under the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC) regulations, athletes who have been suspended for three years or longer are permanently ineligible for those multisport events.

This ban does not apply to the WBC, a professional competition run by Major League Baseball (MLB). In several interviews during the 2022 season, An said he would like to pitch in the WBC.

Though no rules could stop the national team staff from picking An, he still would have been a controversial choice. Manager Lee Kang-chul and his technical director Cho Bum-hyun ultimately decided they didn’t want to deal with the accompanying headache. Optics wouldn’t have been great in the current climate where victims have worked up courage to speak out against their past perpetrators in sports and entertainment sectors.

When asked about the An snub, Cho declined to get into specifics and instead offered some nebulous words.

“When we were assembling the team, we considered many different things, including players’ abilities, the symbolic significance of representing the country, and their sense of responsibility and pride as a member of the national team,” Cho said.

South Korea can still make changes to the 30-man roster before the Feb. 7 deadline, but Cho indicated An will not be added at the last minute.

“In case of an injury we could perhaps replace one or two players,” Cho said. “But for now, we’ve picked these 30 players and this is the team we’re taking.”

An likely didn’t help himself with an ill-advised attempt to play some PR game after the 2022 season. Through his attorney, An claimed three of his four victims had acknowledged in writing that An hadn’t been as violent as initially thought. An tried to argue that he had been punished too severely for a relatively minor offense.

However, it backfired on An, with critics saying he didn’t grasp the gravity of the situation and he was putting his old victims through even more hardship.


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