Dong-hee Park

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Dong-hee Park

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Dong-hee Park was a high school star and a top pitching prospect who played in the Olympics, but who suffered an arm injury early in his professional career. He was 59-50 with 58 saves in 12 years in the Korea Baseball Organization.

Park was considered Korea's most promising young pitcher while in high school, topping 150+ km/hr (90 mph) with his fastball. He was compared to Dong-yol Sun and Dong-won Choi. In his senior year, he led Pusan high school to the finals of a local competition with a 0 ERA.

While at Korea University, Dong-hee played on the Korean national team. He pitched for South Korea in the 1986 Amateur World Series (3-0, 2.16, 27 K in 25 IP; he tied Pablo Abreu for the most wins in the Series, helping South Korea to a Bronze), 1987 Intercontinental Cup, 1988 Baseball World Cup (going 0-2 despite a 2.77 ERA), 1988 Olympics and 1989 Intercontinental Cup. The Sporting News opined that Park would be a tough challenge for the USA team In the 1988 Olympics, listed as one of the two "stud" pitchers most likely to beat them. Toronto Blue Jays scout Wayne Morgan offered a deal to Park; sources differ - Baseball America reported that he signed but relented under government pressure, while the Korea Times claim he refused the offer.

When Park signed with the Lotte Giants in 1990 for 150 million won ($160,000), it made him the highest-paid player at the time. He debuted in fine fashion, striking out 10 batters. He was 10-7 with 7 saves in his rookie season.

In his second year (1992), Dong-hee was even better, going 14-9 with 3 saves and a 2.47 ERA. He was 4th in the Korea Baseball Organization in strikeouts, 6th in ERA and 7th in wins. He won the Korean Series Most Valuable Player Award in 1992, winning two games and saving one to give Lotte their second title.

In 1994, Park had six relief wins and a career-high 31 saves; some years, he would have led the KBO in saves or wins but Myeong-won Jeong had 40 saves and 44 save points. His health got worse as time went by though, thanks to a chronic elbow injury. In 1996, he played for the West Oahu Cane Fires of the Hawaii Winter League. On June 26, 1997, he was traded to the Samsung Lions, but his condition continued to decline and he only won seven games in five years with that club before retiring.

Through 2005, he was 17th all-time in the KBO in saves, tied for 26th in shutouts (7) and tied for 35th in complete games (26).

Park died at 3 AM on March 22, 2007, when his speeding car slammed into a bus stop. He immediately was killed.

Sources: Korean Times obituary, 1993 Baseball America article, Korean wikipedia, TSN Summer Olympics Special from 1988 located at Paper of Record.com, KBO career leaders, KBO single-season leaders