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Chan Ho Park (박찬호, born June 30, 1973) is a Major League Baseball relief pitcher who is a free agent. He is the first South Korean-born player in major league history.

Early career in Korea

As a high school player in South Korea, he won team Most Valuable Player honors three consecutive seasons at Kongju High School in Kongju, South Koreamarker. He also was named the MVP at four national prep tournaments.

Park was a member of the 1992 and 1993 South Korea national baseball team. He posted a 2.76 ERA in helping South Korea earn the silver medal at the Asian Baseball Championship in 1993. He also competed in Summer Universiade in July 1993, and led his team to the silver medal.

Park was a sophomore at Hanyang University, Seoulmarker in 1994 when he was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent.

Professional career

1994–2001: Successful seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers

Park made his professional debut for the Dodgers on April 8, 1994 against the Atlanta Braves as a reliever, working one inning.

Park played in one additional game for the Dodgers that season and then spent the bulk of the season with the Class AA San Antonio Missions, finishing with a 5–7 record and a 3.55 era for the Missions in 20 starts with 100 strikeouts.

With the Albuquerque Dukes in 1995 he was fourth in the Pacific Coast League in strikeouts with 101, and averaged 8.26 strikeouts per 9 innings, the top mark among all Class AAA pitchers. He was selected by Baseball America as the 2nd best Dodgers prospect after the season with the best fastball in the PCL. He recorded his first Major League start on October 1 against the San Diego Padres after receiving a September call-up.

In 1996, his first full season with the Dodgers, he went 5–5 with a 3.64 ERA in 48 games (10 starts). He recorded his first win on April 6 against the Chicago Cubs.

Park had a breakout season in 1997 as he became a fulltime starter. He tied for the team lead in victories, while posting a 14–8 record and a 3.38 ERA in 32 appearances, 29 of them starts.

In 1998, he was 15–9 with a 3.71 ERA in 34 starts and struck out 191 batters in 220.2 innings. After the season, he led the South Korean national team to the gold medal in the Asian Games.

In 1999, he struggled on rotation with 13–11 with a 5.23 ERA. On April 23, 1999 he became the only pitcher in the history of baseball to allow two grand slams in the same inning to the same player, Fernando Tatis of the St. Louis Cardinals. There is still no pitcher but Chan Ho Park who allowed two grand slams in one ball game.

He ranked second in the National League in strikeouts in 2000 with 217 and second in opposing batting average (.214) despite second in allowing bases on balls (124). He finished the season 18–10 with a 3.27 ERA, the best totals of his entire career. He also tossed his first career complete game shutout on September 29, against the San Diego Padres.

Park was named the Dodgers opening day starter for the 2001 season and tossed the Dodgers first season opening shutout since 1981. He was 15–11 with a 3.50 ERA during the season and was selected to appear in the 2001 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, where he pitched one inning, allowed one run and was charged with the loss. Park gave up Barry Bonds' record-breaking 71st and 72nd homers on October 5 against the San Francisco Giants.

2002–2005: 'Bad Memories' with the Texas Rangers

Park was granted free agency after the season and was signed by the Texas Rangers in December of that year to a five year, $65 million contract, which was one of the largest contracts for a pitcher at that time. However, during his time with the Rangers, he was hampered by injuries and a home stadium that favors hitters at Rangers Ballpark in Arlingtonmarker. In his first season with the Rangers, Park went 9–8 in 25 starts, with a 5.75 ERA. The following season, he only started seven times due to injuries, going 1–3 with a 7.58 ERA.

On July 29, 2005, he was traded by the Rangers to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Phil Nevin. Padres fans had hoped that Park could repeat his previous success by playing in pitcher-friendly Petco Parkmarker.

2005–2006: Refreshment with the San Diego Padres

In the 2006 season, Park was reunited with his former Texas Rangers teammate and friend Chris Young, who was traded to the Padres in exchange for Akinori Otsuka. Park started the season as a reliever but soon he became a starter. On July 31, he suffered from mysterious intestinal bleeding and was placed on the disabled list. Several of his teammates, including Jake Peavy, Woody Williams, Chris Young, and Alan Embree, offered to donate their blood, but Park graciously refused their offer, as they were vital members of the team. Park accepted blood transfusions, that came, in part, from Jake Peavy's wife Katie and Kelly Calabrese, Padres' team massage therapist. However, Park's recovery did not last long as he suffered from another episode of intestinal bleeding on August 21. He was hospitalized again, this time along with his wife Rie, who was about to deliver their first child. A very thorough medical examination revealed that Park was suffering from a congenital defect called Meckel's diverticulum. Park had a successful surgery and only six days later his wife delivered a healthy baby daughter at the same hospital.

The San Diego Padres advanced to the post-season and Park joined the post-season roster. On October 3, 2006, Park made his first career post-season appearance in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals as a reliever. He also had career-high season batting average of .268 from 41 at bats.

2007: New York Mets & Houston Astros

On February 8, 2007, the Yonhap News and New York Daily News reported that Park had signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the New York Mets and would report to the Mets' spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida to compete for a starting rotation spot. The Mets sent him down to Triple-A New Orleans following his poor spring performance. On April 30, 2007, Park was called up from Triple-A New Orleans to start for the injured Orlando Hernández. On May 3, 2007, Chan Ho Park was sent back down to Triple-A New Orleans. He was designated for assignment on June 4, 2007.

On June 12, 2007, he signed a minor league deal with the Houston Astros. Astros Manager Phil Garner said "Park will have a few starts at Triple-A Round Rock before the Astros decide whether to call him up." Park compiled a 2–10 record over 15 starts with Round Rock, failing to earn a spot on the Astros' 40-man roster.

2008: Return to the Los Angeles Dodgers

On November 8, 2007, Park accepted an offer from his original team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, to attend spring training as a non-roster invitee. On November 28, 2007, Park asked to be let go by the Dodgers to play for the Korean team. After pitching with no health issues for the Korean National team, the contract was finalized on December 6, 2007. Despite being considered a long shot for the fifth starter's role, Park pitched very well, but was ultimately passed over for right-hander Esteban Loaiza. He was eventually reassigned to the minor leagues on March 30, 2008. Faced with the problem of a fatigued and depleted pitching staff three games later, the Dodgers purchased Park's minor league contract on April 2, 2008.

On May 17, 2008, Park made his first start as a Dodger since 2001 against Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He allowed two runs (one earned run) in four innings with no decision. This game turned out to be a historic one as for the first time in MLB history, all three Dodgers pitchers who pitched in this game (Park, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Takashi Saito) were of Asian origin. The Dodgers won it 6–3.

On June 21, 2008, Park started against the Cleveland Indians at the Dodger Stadium and joined Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, and Jamie Moyer as the only pitchers to start a game against all 30 Major League teams. In addition to making history, he had a decent outing, with 9 strikeouts in 5 innings pitched, although this was overshadowed when he gave up a solo home run to Cleveland Indians pitcher CC Sabathia.

After Takashi Saito's elbow injury, Park was moved back to the bullpen by manager Joe Torre . Jonathan Broxton was promoted to the closer role and Park and Hong-Chih Kuo to the setup man platoon.

2009: Reliever with the Philadelphia Phillies

On January 6, Park signed a one-year, incentive-laden, $2.5 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.On March 31, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro announced that Chan Ho Park had won the fifth starter job.. However, with several poor starts (7 starts with a 7.29 ERA), Park was moved to the bullpen and was replaced in the rotation by J. A. Happ. The problem with Park as a starter was that he was sacrificing velocity and movement for the energy to go deeper in games. After moving to the pen, his four-seam fastball velocity returned to normal (94-96 MPH range), with movement on his two-seam fastball and slider. Park played a vital role in the Phillies' bullpen with a 2.52 ERA, and with the Phillies, he has advanced to his first World Series. He became a free agent after the season.

World Baseball Classic

Between the 2005 season and the season, Park represented South Korea in the World Baseball Classic. In the Asia Round games against Taiwan and Japan, Park made appearances as a closing pitcher, shutting out the opposing lineups. He made another appearance as a closer in the semifinal game against Mexico, in which he again shut out his opposing hitters. His performance made San Diego Padres' manager Bruce Bochy believe that Park can be used as an effective reliever as well as a starter. Park started the semifinal game against Japan, in which he shut out the Japanese lineup for five innings. Korea lost this game, but Park did not get a decision. Park later said that Padres' closer Trevor Hoffman taught him how to focus in a relief situation. With his shutout performance in 10 innings and three saves, Korea finished the World Baseball Classic in third place and Park was selected to the WBC All-Star team along with his teammate Seung Yeop Lee and Team Korea's captain Lee Jong-beom.

Pitching Style

In his prime, Chan Ho's biggest weapon was a four-seam fastball in the mid-90-mph range. Mixed with an 11-to-5 curveball, a slider and a changeup, he had five consecutive 10+ wins at Dodgers. However he constantly revealed control problem even in those prime days. He got many strikeouts, yet also allowed many bases on balls and hit-by-pitch that contributed his lower than average strikeout-walk ratio which was less than 2. This hindered him from achieving low ERA (He never had league top 10 season ERA except his career best season 2000 of 3.27 that was just 7th in NL by playing in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium.) He was also a flyball-pitcher that benefited a lot from huge Dodger Stadium outfield; however his style all added up and later backfired when he played in other teams. After unsuccessful seasons with Rangers, Padres, and Mets, he added a two-seam fastball learned from Orel Hershiser. Fox play by play announcer Matt Vasgersian once said about Park's two-seam fastball, "You can only see a two-seamer like that in Playstation 2". Park's 2008 comeback season was marked with a return to complete health for the first time in years, allowing him to combine his crafty veteran style with a renewed ability to pitch effective fastballs in mid-90 mph.

Family

Park married socialite Ri-hye Park on November 29, 2005. Although her heritage is Korean, she grew up in Japan, went to culinary school in New York. She is publicly known as a semi-professional cook, writer and an only daughter of Japan's 76th richest man according to Philadelphis Inquirer. In Spring 2009, Ri-hye released a best-selling cookbook in Korea from which the proceeds went to various children charities on behalf of the Chan Ho Park Dream Foundation. Park has two daughters (born 2006 and 2008).

See also



References

  1. Players Born in South Korea - Baseball-Reference.com
  2. http://sandiego.padres.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060822&content_id=1622945&vkey=news_sd&fext=.jsp&c_id=sd http://sandiego.padres.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060822&content_id=1623911&vkey=news_sd&fext=.jsp&c_id=sd
  3. The Official Site of The San Diego Padres: News: San Diego Padres News
  4. English.YonhapNews.co.kr
  5. NYDailyNews.com
  6. Sports.Yahoo.com
  7. Inside the Dodgers
  8. Mike Scarr, Dodgers Even Series MLB.com May 18, 2008.
  9. Ken Gurnick, No Win for Park MLB.com June 21, 2008.
  10. 박찬호, 드디어 30개 전구단 상대 선발 등판 조이뉴스, June 20, 2008] (Korean)
  11. Phillies sign Park
  12. 2007 Bullpen Preview: Chan Ho Park (Mike's Mets)


External links




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