Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rightful Owner

With the World Baseball Classic upon us, many professional players are stepping away from spring training to represent their country. For many, it is a chance to escape from the monotony of the cactus league and enjoy competing alongside their countrymen. For a few individuals, however, this tournament means so much more.

Cleveland Indians’ right fielder Shin-Soo Choo suited up for the South Korean team Thursday night as they routed Chinese Taipei 7-0. After his breakout summer with the Tribe last year (64 RBI and 14 bombers in 94 games), you’d expect that he would be counting the days until he could rejoin the Indians camp and start the 2009 campaign.

However, his career with the Indians could be cut short if the South Korean government doesn’t exempt him from the mandatory two years of service in the military that every male citizen must begin before their 30th birthday. At 27, he is primed and ready for an All-Star caliber season, but without a World Baseball Classic title he has little to no chance of getting the free pass.

In a world where professional athletes seem to get away with murder (ahem O.J.), a deserving man might forfeit the career he fought so long to earn. In the name of baseball and quite possibly treason, let’s go South Korea. Knowing that former Olympic medalists have gotten the pardon, a championship on the world stage might be the only thing releasing this man from his military duty.

He could do so much more for South Korea as a baseball star than a soldier.

Athletes such as Ichiro and Yao Ming have become global figures and put their countries on the map. Allowing this man to continue playing would give the South Koreans a true hero and a connection to all the kids who dream of playing Major League Baseball.

So come on South Korea, do it for Shin-Soo Choo.

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