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This year's version of Iguchi?: Jong-Soo Shim

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  • This year's version of Iguchi?: Jong-Soo Shim

    QUOTE
    Korean's eye on big league jump
    Slugger Shim becomes free agent; MLB clubs interested
    By Joe Connor / Special to MLB.com

    SUWON, South Korea -- For nearly a decade, Korean slugger Jong-Soo Shim has been waiting patiently for an opportunity to test his skills in the Major Leagues. He's now one step closer to that reality.

    On Nov. 21, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound right fielder became a free agent for the first time in his professional career. Multiple Major League teams have expressed interest in the 29-year-old, according to Shim's agent, John Kim of SFX, the mega-agency that also represents Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez.

    Despite missing the first two months of this season with a knee injury, Shim posted a .256 average and .385 on-base percentage with 22 home runs and 74 RBIs for the Hyundai Unicorns in the final year of his Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) contract.

    In 2003, Shim led Hyundai to the Korean Series title with a .335 average, 53 homers and 142 RBIs. Earlier in 2003, he batted .307 (4-for-13) with a homer and three RBIs in Spring Training for the Florida Marlins, winning the endorsement of former Major Leaguers Tony Perez, Ozzie Guillen and Tim Raines.

    "They said, 'You can play here; we really want to see you next year,'" said Shim, who is fluent in English. "At that moment, it was 100 percent in my mind I was going to play in the Major Leagues."

    But Korean pros are locked into a seven-year contract before they can be posted to a Major League team and nine years before they can test free agency. Shim tried to persuade Unicorns executives to post him following the 2003 season, but he was turned down. He had made the same request after a 2002 campaign in which he hit 46 homers and had 119 RBIs to go along with a .321 average.

    Shim, who is also considered an exceptional defensive outfielder with the best arm in the KBO, won Golden Glove awards in 2002 and 2003. Golden Glove awards are the KBO's annual awards, and they honor the top all-around players at each position, including designated hitter. They are given out by Korea Baseball Organization Properties, and 2004 winners have yet to be announced.

    Shim said he has been dreaming about playing Major League Baseball since late 1994, when he was invited to participate for 50 days with the St. Louis Cardinals' Instructional League team in Florida.

    By 1997, Shim was a regular in the weight room, pumping iron before and after games and for up to 90 minutes every day in the offseason. He also eliminated fast foods and fried foods from his diet, and began a protein-focused approach that he took to the extreme. Within a year, Shim was to eggs what future Hall of Famer Wade Boggs was to chicken, engulfing up to 20 hard-boiled eggs per day. By the 1998 season, Shim had added 20 pounds of muscle and was being referred to by his teammates simply as "Eggman."

    The Korean baseball media soon had its own nickname for Shim: "Hercules." His workout routines and diet have since been imitated by other players in the KBO.

    While there's little doubt Shim has the physique to play in the Major Leagues, the big question is how his offensive numbers would translate in North America. Pitcher Chan Ho Park was the first Korean-born player to join the Majors, but the professional ranks have yet to export a slugger.

    Dodgers first baseman Hee-Seop Choi never played professional baseball in his native Korea, signing with the Cubs out of high school.

    Last winter, Major League teams balked at signing five-time KBO Most Valuable Player Seung Yeop-Lee to a multi-year, multi-million-dollar Major League contract. This, despite the fact Lee shattered Sadaharu Oh's Asian single-season home run record with 56 in 2003.

    Disappointed at the contract offers from Major League teams, Lee, 28, ended up signing a multi-year contract with Japan's Chiba Lotte Marines, playing under former Mets manager Bobby Valentine in 2004. But Lee's debut season in Tokyo was marred by inconsistency, eventual removal from the starting lineup and even an embarrassing demotion to the minors. In 100 games in 2004, he batted just .240 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs.

    "The biggest obstacle is, MLB scouts don't think the KBO's level is equivalent to Japan," said Kim, who is certainly aware that there is now some evidence of that in Lee's numbers. "How quickly could [Shim] make the adjustment [in MLB]?"

    A pair of former Major League pitchers who have faced Shim in the Korean league believe the right fielder has more plate discipline than Lee, who was demoted to the Japanese minors mainly to improve his inconsistent swing and boost his confidence. Shane Bowers, who pitched for the Twins, said Shim's style is more suited for the North American game and that he will only improve, with his work ethic and raw power among his key traits. Former Yankees pitcher Daniel Rios added that Shim has tremendous plate discipline.

    Despite Lee's disappointing first season in Japan, teams there have contacted Kim expressing interest in Shim's services. But Shim has said he is not interested in playing next season in the Land of the Rising Sun. He is also being courted by other Korean teams, and likely would demand the highest baseball salary on the Korean peninsula should he return ($500,000-$1 million per year).

    Would Shim be willing to take equal, or even less money in the U.S., and also start in the minors to prove his worth?

    "He's going to keep his options open; he just wants a shot," Kim explained. "For him, it's about [getting] an opportunity to play in the big leagues. He's been non-stop talking about it."

    Joe Connor is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
    print this pageprint this page | email this pageemail this page [/b][/quote]

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

  • #2
    I want a Hyundai Unicorns hat.

    Comment


    • #3
      It's not the Cardinal's style, but I'd love to see them take a shot at this guy.
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      • #4
        QUOTE(backstop @ Oct 25 2005, 11:27 AM) Quoted post

        I want a Hyundai Unicorns hat.
        [/b][/quote]
        Nippon Hamfighters all the way...

        "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
        Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
        -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

        Comment


        • #5
          Is that article a year old? How come there's no info from 2005?

          Comment


          • #6
            QUOTE(backstop @ Oct 25 2005, 11:28 AM) Quoted post

            Is that article a year old? How come there's no info from 2005?
            [/b][/quote]
            I just stole it from somewhere else...

            "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
            Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
            -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

            Comment


            • #7
              QUOTE(*007* @ Oct 25 2005, 11:29 AM) Quoted post

              QUOTE(backstop @ Oct 25 2005, 11:28 AM) Quoted post

              Is that article a year old? How come there's no info from 2005?
              [/b][/quote]
              I just stole it from somewhere else...
              [/b][/quote]

              QUOTE
              11/21/2004 [/b][/quote]

              Where was Walt?

              Comment


              • #8
                QUOTE(backstop @ Oct 25 2005, 11:31 AM) Quoted post

                QUOTE(*007* @ Oct 25 2005, 11:29 AM) Quoted post

                QUOTE(backstop @ Oct 25 2005, 11:28 AM) Quoted post

                Is that article a year old? How come there's no info from 2005?
                [/b][/quote]
                I just stole it from somewhere else...
                [/b][/quote]

                QUOTE
                11/21/2004 [/b][/quote]

                Where was Walt?
                [/b][/quote]
                More precisely: where was I? [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/laugh.gif[/img] Note to self: never trust posters from other boards...

                "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
                Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
                -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

                Comment

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