Pitcher Chan Ho Park is set to fulfill a longtime wish to end his career in his native country after Korean baseball officials waived a rule allowing the 38-year-old to avoid the draft and begin playing immediately.
Park, who was the first Korean-born baseball player in major league history, will play in the 2012 season for the Hanwha Eagles, a Daejeon-based team close to his hometown of Gongju. The Korea Baseball Organization allowed the former All-Star to skirt a rule which states that players who have not played professionally in Korea are required to enter the draft.
Park’s stint in Japan last year with the Orix Buffaloes ended unceremoniously with a 1-5 record and an ERA of 4.29.
After seeing success with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the late 1990s, Park signed a $65 million contract with the Texas Rangers but was deemed a bust as he was hampered by injuries. He later returned to the Dodgers and also played for the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates, among other teams.
During his best years in Los Angeles, his starts were major events in Korea, prompting many to stop work to watch his games.