As professional baseball tries to emerge from the aftermath of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and return to the eight-million-attendance era, an assault case has hit the sport in a major way. The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) has already sent shockwaves through the sport, and has revealed the disciplinary levels for those involved in the case.
The KBO held a closed-door punishment committee at the Dogok-dong Baseball Hall in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, at 2 p.m. on the 19th to deliberate on Lee Won-jun, who SSG requested a waiver on the 13th, and current SSG players Lee Ig-yeon and Choi Sang-min.
It’s 2023, and a bat assault… KBO pulls out the knife: ‘I’ll throw cold water on the box office’
“Lee Won-jun, Lee Yi-yeon, and Choi Sang-min committed harsh acts against some players during a training break at the SSG Field in Ganghwa on the 6th of this month, and among them, Lee Won-jun additionally assaulted a certain player’s thigh with a baseball bat twice,” the KBO said, adding, “We have decided to suspend Lee Won-jun for 72 games based on Article 151 [Impairment of Dignity] of the KBO Regulations for harsh acts and assault.”
The same rule was applied to Lee Geo-yeon and Choi Sang-min, who were suspended for 30 games each for their harsh behaviour.
“SSG will be warned as the club reported the incident to the KBO Clean Baseball Centre immediately after becoming aware of it and actively cooperated with the follow-up,” the KBO Penalty Committee said.
Lee was a pitching prospect who joined the SK Wyverns (SSG’s predecessor) in the first round in 2017. He didn’t get much of a chance in the first team, but he went through the Korean Armed Forces Athletic Corps (Commerce) and showed promise in the Futures (second division) league this season, going 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA in three games.
Violence is never justified under any circumstances. This incident shocked baseball fans, especially because it happened in 2023.
On the 6th of this month, player A ordered a group icebreaker for the younger players, including B, at the SSG Futures Field in Ganghwa, Incheon, because he was unhappy with the attitude and expression of junior B while talking to other players. Lee Won-jun, who had no idea that he was being punished, hit B on the buttocks with a baseball bat twice, and D, who was in the same position as Lee Won-jun, called the players together and punished them again. When the second team coach checked B’s body, the incident was revealed, and the SSG reported it to the KBO Clean Baseball Centre on the same day (7th). After conducting its own investigation, the SSG wrote a report and submitted it on the 9th.
‘Another’ shocking assault in three years… SSG issues one-strike ban + promises to prevent recurrence
SSG held its own disciplinary committee on the 12th and decided that Lee Won-jun was ‘one strike out’. A similar incident occurred at the same venue in May 2020 during his time at SK. At the time, a junior player’s unauthorised accommodation and driving without a licence were cited as the reasons, but the team said at the time that it would “revise the existing squad management regulations and review the system so that ‘one strike out’ can be applied according to the degree of wrongdoing when players engage in behaviour that impairs their dignity outside of the game, such as violence, sexual offences, drunk driving (driving without a licence), gambling, etc.”. When the incident happened again three years later, the SSG wasted no time in expelling Lee Won-jun.
Of course, SSG is not immune from responsibility. “It shouldn’t have happened again,” said an SSG official who spoke to StarNews earlier, “and although there was a recurrence of the same problem, we judged it to be a bigger problem because he picked up a bat, and he is very remorseful. Today, the manager and the player had a meeting, and he said he lost control in the heat of the moment and did something he shouldn’t have done, and he regrets it deeply. He felt the seriousness of what he had done through the people around him, so he took the disciplinary action more calmly than I thought.”
On the same day that the KBO disciplinary action was announced, SSG also released an apology for the behaviour that damaged the dignity of the second team.
“First of all, we sincerely apologise for the great disappointment caused to the fans who love professional baseball due to the dignity-damaging behaviour of some players,” said SSG. “SSG humbly accepts the results of the KBO Punishment Committee announced today and will make bone-crushing efforts to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”
“At this point, we will accurately diagnose the level of awareness and behaviour of all players in the first and second tier, and review the overall management and operation of the team, including how the team is educated and inspected, and how the accommodation is operated. Based on this, we will strengthen regulations and systems to raise the standards and awareness of the entire team, including the coaching staff, to the level of society.”안전놀이터
It also outlined specific measures. The SSG said, “In particular, we will establish a ‘Pledge to Eradicate Dishonourable Behaviour’ system, which will be signed annually at the time of signing the contract, and will be used as an opportunity for players to renew their mindset about the system.” “We will also conduct monthly training and reality checks for second-level players and strengthen the reporting process.”
The clubs will also be able to control the situations that could lead to team spirit. The SSG explained, “We will also operate a pre-reporting system for the team’s own communication gatherings to ensure that the purpose, location, and time of the gathering are not violated.”
“Once again, we sincerely apologise to our fans, and we will learn from this incident and strive to grow into an SSG Landers that is loved by our fans,” the team concluded.