Friday, January 14, 2011
#700) DAE-SUNG KOO
Dae-Sung Koo joined the New York Mets as a free agent on January 8, 2005. Born in Daejeon, South Korea as a right-hander who converted to a left-handed thrower following an injury. The 35-year old came from the Orix Blue Wave of the Japanese Pacific League. Dae-Sung had also pitched for South Korea in the 2000 Olympic Games. Throwing a complete game victory over Japan to earn a bronze medal.
After initial negotiations with the New York Yankees stymied (due to their attention in acquiring Randy Johnson) the opportunity shifted to the Mets. His lifelong dream of pitching in the major-leagues was realized. "I believe I have accomplished all that I could in terms of my record and career in Japan and Korea, and now I want to come to the United States and pitch at a high level," Koo said through an interpreter. "If they call me to start, I will be ready as a starter. If they want me as a reliever, I am ready, as I am a team player."
Koo would make his major-league debut on April 4, 2005. He threw an inning of scoreless relief and struck out two Reds batters on Opening Day in Cincinnati.
Dae-Sung's greatest moment as a New York Met came on May 21st during a nationally televised game on the FOX Network. Koo came on in relief of Kris Benson facing the Yankees in front of a sold out crowd at Shea Stadium. After getting three quick outs the Mets elected to forego a pinch-hitter, and keep Dae-Sung in the game. Not much could have been expected from the pitcher who was quite unaccustomed to hitting. Particularly facing the future Hall of Famer and Yankees ace, Randy Johnson as he was. To the delight of the home crowd Koo stroked a drive to right-centerfield that fell just short of the warning track. A hustling Dae-Sung ran to second base with a double. Then when the next batter, Jose Reyes bunted to sacrifice him to third base an alert Koo saw home plate unprotected. He scampered to score with a head first slide just ahead of the tag by Yankees catcher, Jorge Posada. "I think he made the right call," Koo said of the umpire. "If he said safe, then I am safe." The Mets would win the game by a score of 7-1. "It never came to my mind that I could hit a ball that far," he said through a translator after the game. Mike Piazza summed it up, "We were all dumbfounded."
Over the season Dae-Sung appeared in 33 games for the Mets, but was not as effective facing left-handed hitters as the club had hoped. His 3.91 ERA came with 23 strikeouts in 23 innings of work. Koo was invited to spring training camp for the 2006 season, but returned to pitch in South Korea after only a few days.
The 41-year old reliever pitched for the Sydney Blue Sox during the inaugural season of the Australian Baseball League in 2010-11. "He's got a lot of poise out there and he doesn't get over-awed by situations," said coach Glenn Williams. "He's in his early 40s so obviously he doesn't throw as hard as he used to but he's got a few different breaking balls he throws." Koo finished the season as the league leader in saves.
Dae-Sung Koo signed his card in the set for my friend Tyler during a Blue Sox team workout at Blacktown Olympic Park in Sydney, Australia on January 8, 2011.