O's apologize to Korean baseball officials
Club regrets 'unintentional breach of protocol' in signing Kim
BALTIMORE -- Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette issued an apology Friday night for what he deemed an "unintentional breach of protocol" in the club's signing of 17-year-old South Korean pitcher Seong-Min Kim.
"On behalf of the Orioles organization, I offer a sincere apology to the Korea Baseball Organization and the Korea Baseball Association for the club's unintentional breach of protocol in failing to tender a status check in the process of signing Seong-Min Kim," Duquette said in a statement. "The Orioles respect Major League Baseball's recruiting policies, and the governing bodies and people that contribute to the growth of baseball around the world."
The statement comes on the heels of a firestorm by the Korean Baseball Organization, which filed a letter of protest against the Orioles to Major League Baseball -- claiming the club broke protocol -- on Tuesday. The KBA took its issue one step further Friday morning, by announcing plans to ban the O's scouts from attending its amateur games.
The KBO reportedly wants an explanation for why it had not been informed discussions were taking place between the Orioles and Kim, and a League source confirmed MLB is presently looking into the matter to determine a proper course of action. Although there is nothing preventing foreign teams from signing Korean amateurs, the process requires teams to make inquiries to the KBO first. Players from outside the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico are permitted to sign with Major League teams at age 16. But the KBA claims Kim was in violation of its rules by being in contact with a team prior to his final year of high school.
"MLB will let us know once they have decided upon a proper measure of response," Michael Park, the KBO's operations manager, told Reuters on Tuesday. "Poaching our players like this makes it difficult for [South Korea] to keep its scouting rules tight and to develop our youth sports programs.
"We only have 50 high school teams, and taking promising players away like this makes it very hard for Korean baseball to stay strong."
Duquette -- who has made it no secret he plans to ramp up the Orioles' international efforts -- told MLB.com earlier this week that the club was "cooperating with MLB to resolve this concern." Friday's statement is the first step in what the organization hopes is a process that can be resolved quickly and positively.
Kim had been pitching for the 18-and-under South Korean national team, but numerous outlets reported Wednesday that he is now barred from playing or coaching baseball in his home country. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound left-hander -- who throws a fastball, curveball, changeup and slider -- had his signing with the Orioles announced on Jan. 30.
At the time of his signing, Duquette was quoted in a news release as saying, "We are glad to sign a player that our scouts feel is one of the top amateur left-handed pitchers in South Korea. Kim has an excellent curveball and very good control."
MLB has yet to issue a comment or publicly announce how it will handle the matter.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.