Ko Woo-seok was thrilled, “I dreamed of Darvish… It’s amazing and amazing.” Departure → ML competition has begun ahead of Lunar New Year’s Day

Go Woo-seok (26, San Diego Padres) is on his way to the U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB). He looked thrilled that he was sharing a meal with a star player he had seen when he was young.

Ko left for the U.S. via Incheon International Airport Terminal 2 at 8:05 p.m. on Saturday. After arriving in the U.S., he will adjust to the training facility at the San Diego Padres spring camp in Peoria, Arizona.

According to News 1 and Newsis, Ko Woo-seok, who met with reporters before leaving the country, said, “The LG Twins allowed me to train at the Futures team facility. Coach Kyung Heon-ho, coach Seo Yong-bin, and training coach took good care of me.” He thanked me, saying, “I’m grateful once again that I was able to build up my body well.”

Ko Woo-seok, who said he had a video meeting with the San Diego club while in Korea, said, “I sent him (to the club) how he was training, and I trained while continuing to communicate with him about how much he was throwing the ball.” There has been no significant change from previous years, but he said, “I trained on these areas as I had injuries ahead of last season.” He was diagnosed with right shoulder rotator cuff muscle inflammation at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) held in March last year and was unable to play in the opening game.

Ko Woo-seok considers taking care of his body as important as he suffered from injury. “If there is an injury, it is hard to win the competition,” he said. “If there is another injury, it takes time to recover his condition. I know that the time given to me is not enough, so it is most important to play the season in a healthy state.”

Ko Woo-suk, who is about to play in the Major League, showed his willingness to adapt even in a different environment from Korea. “I have to prepare better because there are many things that I have not experienced and I do not know. I am going to try to hit it first,” he said.

Fortunately, Kim Ha-sung (29), who once played for the Korean national team, is holding out in the San Diego Padres. Kim Ha-sung, who entered the big league three years earlier than Ko, became the first Asian infielder to win the Gold Glove (American League utility category) last year and became a star player. “I’m so happy to be on the same team as Ha-sung,” Ko said. “I’m just grateful that you’re welcoming me,” adding, “I’m relieved to have someone in the team. I’m thankful just for that.”

He has no personal relationship with Ko, but he also has a welcoming name. It is Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. Having moved to the San Diego Padres in 2021, he signed a six-year, 108 million-dollar contract ahead of the 2023 season, and will remain in the team until 2028, unless something unexpected happens.

“Darvish also had a successful career in the U.S.,” Koh said. “I dreamed of becoming an amateur player as well. It would be amazing and amazing.” Koh was an elementary school student from 2008 to 2009, when he became a member of the national team and made his name known to Korean fans. He ended up playing in the same team as the player he longed for while watching TV.

On his way to the airport on the eve of the Lunar New Year’s Day, Ko showed up with his wife Lee Ga-hyeon. When he arrives, he will meet his friend and brother-in-law Lee Jung-hoo (San Francisco). “I join the club and take a test the next day after arriving in Korea. I heard it’s a physical fitness test. I have to prepare right away, so I think the day will pass by,” Ko said.

Finally, Ko Woo-seok told his fans who supported him, “I’m so grateful just for your interest and support. It’s embarrassing to hear that I represent something, but I’ll try hard to be a player who is not ashamed.”

Ko signed a two-plus-one-year contract with the San Diego Padres on April 4. His destination was announced dramatically ahead of the deadline for posting on January 4. According to The Athletic and others, Ko will receive 4.5 million U.S. dollars in guarantees. He will receive 1.75 million dollars in this season, followed by 2.25 million dollars in annual salary for the 2025 season. If he invokes the mutual option, he will be able to receive 3 million dollars in annual salary for the 2026 season. If he meets the record-related bonus, he will be able to receive up to 9.4 million dollars in total.

It has also been confirmed that the deal includes the right to reject Ko in the minor leagues. This is interpreted as an indication that the San Diego Padres will clearly utilize Ko in the first division in the 2024 season. When signing the contract with the San Diego Padres in 2021, Kim Ha-sung also added the right to reject Ko in the minor leagues (from the third year) to his contract terms. This shows how much San Diego considers and treats Ko.

While sending Ko Woo-suk to the big league, LG, the original team, will also collect transfer fees. According to the “Korea-U.S. Player Contract Agreement” between KBO and the Major League Baseball Secretariat revised in 2018, if the guaranteed contract amount agreed by a major league club with a player is less than $25 million, 20% of the contract will be paid to the original team. In addition, if the amount exceeds $25 million and less than $50 million, the transfer fee will be set by combining $5 million, 20% of the $25 million, and 17.5% of the amount exceeding $25 million. If it exceeds $50 million, the transfer fee will be 20% of the $25 million, or $9.375 million, or 17.5% of the $25 to $50 million, and 15% of the amount exceeding $50 million. Therefore, LG, the original team, will receive $900,000 (if the guaranteed contract amount is less than $25 million), 20% of the down payment, according to KBO baseball rules, and can receive an additional amount depending on whether Ko Woo-suk executes options and extends the contract in the future.

A graduate of Galsan Elementary School, Yangcheon Middle School, and Chungam High School, Ko joined LG as the first team designation in 2017. Showing his potential by playing in 25 games in the first team from his first season, Ko spent the full-time season with three wins and five losses with a 5.91 ERA in 56 games the following year. In 2019, he played the role of the team’s closer, posting an excellent performance of 8 wins and 2 losses with 35 saves and 1 ERA of 1.52 in 65 games (71 innings).

Ko Woo-suk, who showed signs of instability in 2020 with his ERA rising to 4.10, successfully rebounded by posting an outstanding performance of one win, five losses, 30 saves, and 2.17 ERA in 63 games next season. He pitched 60 ⅔ innings in 61 games in 2022, and spent his career high season with 4 wins, 2 losses, 42 saves and 1.48 saves. In particular, he won his first career title in saves, beating second-ranked Kim Jae-yoon (then KT, 33 saves) by a wide margin.

Ko showed signs of faltering performance last year. At the World Baseball Classic held in March, he couldn’t play a game due to muscle inflammation in his right shoulder rotator cuff, and was excluded from the roster during the season due to back pain. In the last 10 games of this season, he lost four games. Consequently, Ko had three wins, eight losses and 15 saves with a 3.68 ERA in 44 games during this season. After losing in the first game, he made blon saves in the third game, but managed to secure the last out count in the fifth game, contributing to his team’s 29-year victory 꽁머니.

Ko, who was expected to enter this season at LG, started his big league challenge by receiving a request for an identity check from the Major League secretariat in mid-November last year. Eventually, he was denied permission to play overseas after consulting with the club, and started applying for posting on the same day as his friend and brother-in-law Lee Jung-hoo (San Francisco Giants). He hadn’t heard of his contract for a while, but his trip to the Major League was confirmed dramatically.

Cha Myung-seok, head of the original LG team, said, “Congratulations. Ko is one of the best closers in the KBO League. He is competitive enough in the Major League, and I think he will adapt well. I hope he will play well as a representative Major League player in Korea with good results. I cheer for Ko’s new challenge.”

“I want to say thank you to the LG Twins for opening an opportunity to have a big experience in the Major League. And I also thank the San Diego club for allowing me to start a new challenge. I am starting again with a new mind in a new place. I will do my best to become a player who does not meet everyone’s expectations by showing good performances,” Koh said.

At the San Diego Padres, Ko will enter the Major League and seek a position as a closer. Currently, Ko is expected to have a heated competition with his Japanese counterparts such as Closer Yuki Matsui, as well as Robert Suarez and Wandy Peralta. U.S. media Sports Illustrated predicted that Ko, the KBO league’s best closing pitcher, will get a chance to take the mound in various situations in the second half of the game.

San Diego manager Mike Shildt said in an interview with local media, “We have a lot of good pitchers in our team. We need to prepare well on whether we can use them or not in the future. Depending on the opponent team, we could use the bullpen flexibly.” If Suarez leaves the team due to injury or poor performance, there is a good chance that Go Woo-suk and Yuki Matsui will have a chance. The two are rookies in the Major League, but they are resources that have already grown into the best closers in Korea and Japan.

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