Amid MLB talks, KBO outfielder focused on race for playoff spot

September 23, 2015
Son Ah-seop for the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization (Yonhap file photo)

Son Ah-seop for the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization (Yonhap file photo)

BUSAN (Yonhap) — Hours after a U.S. media report claimed Wednesday he has set his sights on Major League Baseball (MLB), Lotte Giants outfielder Son Ah-seop apologized to his teammates for causing a distraction at a key juncture late in the season.

With the Giants battling for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), Yahoo Sports reported that Son plans to enter the posting this offseason, putting himself up for a silent auction among interested big league teams.

The Giants must first approve of the move by the outfielder, and the report, citing unidentified sources, said the Giants are aware of Son’s intention.

After the Giants’ home game in Busan against the Doosan Bears was rained out, Son told reporters he too was surprised by the coverage.

“I want to apologize to my teammates for having this personal story out in the media at such a critical time,” said Son, whose Giants remain half a game out of fifth place at 64-71-1 with eight games to play. “This is no time to talk about my personal dreams. I am only thinking about helping our team get that fifth spot. We didn’t make the postseason the past two years, and we are all dying to have the taste of baseball in autumn.”

Son, who bats left and throws right, has carved out an All-Star career here as one of the better contact hitters. He’s a career .324 hitter over nine seasons, though he only became a full-time player in 2010. Since that year, he has never hit worse than .306 in a season.

He is sitting at .321/.408/.471 this season with 12 home runs, 52 RBIs and 11 steals this year. He set his career-high in home runs with 18 last year, but has not been known for brute strength.

Son is represented by Rick Thurman of the Beverly Hills Sports Council in the United States.

“Over the past three or four years, I’ve been telling a close friend in the United States that I’d love to play on a big stage if the opportunity came,” Son said. “With the friend’s help, I’ve come this far. But I don’t think it’d be too late to discuss my own ambitions after the end of the season.”

Son said he has built a close bond with Kang Jung-ho, infielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates who joined the big leagues via posting last offseason. Kang, the first South Korean position player to jump from the KBO to MLB, sustained a serious leg injury last week on a hard slide by an opposing runner at second base and will miss the rest of the season.

The two speak on a regular basis. Son said Kang, who was enjoying a strong year for the Buccos, has remained upbeat in his recovery, and that the infielder is a source of inspiration.

“When I told him that I wanted to play in the majors, he said I should keep working hard in South Korea,” Son added. “He gives me a lot of motivation. Every time we talk, my dream grows bigger.”