These Three Tigers Are Currently Playing Ball in South Korea
As Major League Baseball continues to negotiate into the summer and when (and how) they are going to play safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are several players that are looking to put their games together in the challenging Korea Baseball Organization.
The KBO began their 2020 season on May 5th, just a few months after the threat of their season being cancelled was a possibility as the virus traveled through Asia. The league put in safety measures that assisted in keeping the players safe, including social distancing in dugouts and locker rooms, use of masks and gloves by umpires, and baseballs were taken out of play once they were scuffed up during play. Player's temperatures are also tested in between innings. The largest safety measure is that there are no fans in the stands.
After a two-week exhibition season in late April, the season began and has continued to flourish with more exposure than usual. ESPN became the exclusive English broadcaster for their games this year and their announcers have been calling the games from their homes. The largest challenge is that the games are broadcast live (5:25 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, 4 a.m. Saturday and 1 a.m. Sunday).
I've watched several games this season and recognize the former MLB players that have continued their careers in the KBO. Each of the 10 teams are allowed four international players. One of the teams, the Kia Tigers (based in Kwangju, South Korea), has a familiar names as manager in former San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Matt Williams. While a few teams have brought on players from Japan, many have snagged players from the Majors that were let go after their contracts expired.
Come to find out, there are three former Detroit Tigers that are in the KBO, keeping their opportunity to return to the States as a possibility. Two of them are actually on the same team - a team that just matched the KBO record for consecutive losses (as of June 12th). One thing in common - all three players were with Detroit within the last three seasons.