Kim Kwang-hyun, Lee Yong-chan, and Jeong Chul-won avoid suspensions, now it’s a matter of when to return

Three Korean National Team pitchers who were involved in a drinking controversy during the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March have been cleared of any serious penalties.

Kim Kwang-hyun (SSG), Lee Yong-chan (NC), and Chung Chul-won (Doosan) drank alcohol at a bar until dawn during the WBC in March, according to a YouTube channel expose on March 30. With Korea finishing third in Group B and failing to advance to the second round of the tournament, the controversy over the players’ drinking caused a stir.

In an effort to get to the bottom of the matter, the KBO received letters of inquiry and statements of fact from the nine clubs that sent players to the national team. The three players, who had been shrouded in anonymity, revealed their names in a public apology on March 1. Kim Kwang-hyun was subsequently expunged from the first-team roster on the first day and Jung Chul-won and Lee Yong-chan on the second, after which they faced a face-to-face investigation by the KBO.

On July 7, the KBO held a punishment committee and, after discussions, decided to punish Kim Kwang-hyun with 80 hours of community service and a 5 million won ($4,000) sanction for damaging the national team’s dignity by visiting a nightclub twice during the tournament, and 40 hours of community service and a 3 million won sanction for Lee Yong-chan and Jung Chul-won for visiting a nightclub once.

In order to conduct a thorough investigation, the KBO contacted the manager of the Tokyo nightclub by phone to confirm the time of entry, payment, and presence of staff. The players also submitted their credit card statements to avoid being victimized by fake news that they “drank until late in the morning” or “played ahead of the Korea-Japan game. The players not only submitted their credit card statements from the bar, but also their credit card statements from the convenience store the day before the Korea-Japan game.

The players all attended the punishment committee on the same day and apologized once again. The KBO’s initial policy was to impose strong discipline, such as a regular season suspension, but as the players did not do anything to warrant such a punishment, they were given community service and a fine.

While this may seem like a minor punishment, for Kim Kwang-hyun, Lee Yong-chan, and Chung Chul-won, the damage to their reputations has already been done. Kim Kwang-hyun was forced to hang up his Korean flag in disgrace after wearing it for 15 years from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the WBC. Lee Yong-chan’s image as a veteran has also been tarnished. Jung Chul-won, who won the Rookie of the Year award last year and is about to turn the page on the second chapter of his career, will have a tough time rebuilding his image.

All three players are currently out of the first team. Kim Kwang-hyun was placed on self-imposed exile by the team, and NC canceled Lee Yong-chan’s contract because they didn’t think he could throw his pitches properly on the mound. Doosan also decided that Jeong Chul-won needed time off and removed him from the first team. Kim Kwang-hyun last pitched on May 20, Lee Yong-chan on May 30, and Jeong Chul-won on May 25. Since then, they have not pitched for the Futures, waiting for the KBO investigation to conclude.

Now that the three players have avoided the severe punishment of suspension, the only question is when they can return. In principle, Kim Kwang-hyun can return on the 11th, Yoo Yong-chan on the 11th, and Jeong Chul-won on the 12th, but it’s important that the three players have enough physical and mental energy.

SSG coach Kim Won-hyung said on July 7, 메이저놀이터”Kim Kwang-hyun has been doing personal training, but we still need to check his physical and psychological condition. Playing a match is the next issue.”

On the 2nd, NC coach Kang In-hwa expunged Yong-chan, saying, “The important thing is whether he can show himself smoothly on the mound.” Kang also revealed the reason for the expulsion. Kang is expected to call up Yong-chan when he feels he has shaken off the guilt and public pressure and regained his mental strength.

If they do return to the first team, they will have the “drinking controversy” tag hanging over them for a while. Whether they pitch well or not, what happened three months ago will continue to haunt them. It’s a sensitive position for all three pitchers, and how quickly they shake off the pressure will determine when they return to the first team.

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