As the year comes to a close, the professional baseball world has been hit by another drunk driving nightmare. Lotte infielder Bae Young-bin was followed by Doosan Bears catcher Park Yoo-yeon, who was caught driving while intoxicated, much to the dismay of fans.
Park was a catching prospect who graduated from Dongsang High School and joined Doosan in the sixth round of the 2017 second round. It was recently revealed that Park was caught driving under the influence near her home in late September, right in the middle of the regular season. She had been drinking the night before and was still hungover the next day when she got behind the wheel in the morning, and she was caught and had her license suspended.
However, Park Yoo-yeon did not inform the club of her DUI arrest and covered it up. It wasn’t until three months after the incident that Doosan received an anonymous tip that they realized she was driving drunk. After conducting its own investigation, the team obtained a confession from Park and filed a report with the KBO Clean Baseball Center.
The KBO will soon hold a disciplinary committee to decide whether to impose a suspension or additional punishment such as community service. According to the KBO DUI penalty rules, the first offense is a 70-game suspension; the second offense is a one-year disqualification; the third offense is a five-year disqualification; and the fourth offense is a permanent disqualification.
It’s also worth noting how the clubs responded. Doosan has players like Kang Seung-ho and Lee Yong-chan with prior DUI convictions, so public opinion is bound to be harsh. Currently, Doosan is reportedly struggling to decide what to do with Park Yoo-yeon. The DUI itself is a problem, but the fact that she hid the fact from the club makes her a likely candidate for release.
A month before Park Yoo-yeon, Lotte’s Bae Young-bin was effectively banned from baseball for the same “cover-up after a DUI” controversy. On October 23, Bae Young-bin was caught getting behind the wheel after drinking with friends in Seoul and had his license revoked by police. Bae’s case was eerily similar to Park Yoo-yeon’s, in that he did not immediately report his DUI arrest to the club and participated in the final camp before it was discovered.
Lotte held an internal disciplinary committee and made the decision to release Bae Young-bin even before the KBO’s punishment was handed down. “We considered the act of driving under the influence of alcohol to be a major offense and the act of concealing it without self-reporting to the club to be a serious matter,” the club said. The KBO’s punishment committee handed Bae a one-year suspension and 80 hours of community service.
Bae joined Lotte as a developmental player this year and was promising as a full-time player in May, batting .313 in 18 games this season. However, one careless mistake and his entire baseball career was ruined overnight. It would take until 2025 at the earliest for Bae to make a comeback, and given the changing social climate, it’s doubtful any team would want to sign a player with a DUI.
Ahead of his inauguration last year, KBO President Heo Koo-yeon listed the “four no-no’s” (drunk driving, match-fixing, sexual offenses, and drug use) as prohibited activities for professional baseball players, saying, “We must remember that various incidents have disappointed fans and provided an excuse for them to leave the game in a hurry. We have learned the hard way that the deviation of a few players can have a devastating impact on the entire baseball world.”
Heo was also responsible for blocking the return of Kang Jeong-ho to the KBO, who had been criticized by the public for his drunk driving record at the time. In June of the same year, he also overhauled the rules on drunk driving, further strengthening sanctions.굿모닝토토 주소
However, despite Heo’s firm stance and the KBO’s regulations, drunk driving accidents are still a common occurrence. Last winter, Hanwha Eagles shortstop Ha Joo-seok and NC Dinos outfielder Kim Ki-hwan were caught driving under the influence of alcohol.
Kim was released by NC, and Ha returned this year after serving his punishment, but he lost his starting job to Lee Do-yoon and had the worst season of his career, leaving him at a crossroads in baseball. Naturally, the public opinion of fans towards them is also cold. Today, unlike in the past, once an athlete has been caught driving under the influence of alcohol, it is difficult for them to recover, both in terms of performance and public image.
Athletes can become victims of drunk driving at any time. NC infielder Do Tae-hoon was injured when he was hit by a drunk driver last year and had to be hospitalized for a while. Jeju United goalkeeper Yoo Yeon-soo was diagnosed with paraplegia after a car accident with a drunk driver and had to retire from soccer. Professional basketball player Kim Min-koo (retired) suffered a catastrophic hip injury in 2014 when he was involved in a car accident with a drunk driver and his career went downhill.
The fact that Park Yoo-yeon and Bae Young-bin tried to hide their DUI arrests suggests that they were aware of the consequences of their actions. However, this fear should have been felt before the DUI. They should have been more careful, because even if they were behind the wheel for a short time with a designated driver, or if they were driving hungover the day after drinking, they could still be charged with DUI.
On the other hand, even if it is not limited to the realm of drunk driving, it is concerning that young, inexperienced baseball players are repeatedly involved in unsavory incidents.
Earlier this year, Lotte’s Seo Jun-won was banned from baseball after it was revealed that he was involved in a sexual offense and was sentenced to three years in prison and five years of probation at trial. In 2020, Shin Dong-soo, a rookie infielder for the Samsung Lions, was also released from the organization after it was revealed that he had consistently posted abusive private posts on social media that degraded the club and baseball officials, as well as his hometown, the disabled, and minors. They, along with Park Yoo-yeon and Bae Young-bin, are all young players in their late teens and early 20s.
There is a story that a three-year-old can live to be eighty. Professional baseball players are almost like public figures in that they exist based on the interest and love of their fans. As a result, today’s fans value not only the skills of professional athletes, but also their character. It is important to be wary of young athletes entering the professional world and creating an atmosphere that emphasizes competition and results while neglecting social responsibility.
At a time when Korean baseball is just starting to see some good news, with attendance returning to the 8 million mark after a five-year hiatus, it’s not a good sign that the “morality” of some young players is back on the table. This is why the KBO and its clubs should pay more attention to character education and player management as much as athletics.