South Korean pitcher Dae-Eun Rhee excelled for Cubs Single-A affiliate in Peoria during the 2008 season. Rhee started 10 games during the season, going 4-1 with a sparkling 1.80 ERA. He won’t be the only South Korean in Cubs Spring Training Camp for the 2009 season – pitcher Su-Min Jung, outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha and infielder Hak-Ju Lee will also join Rhee for some fun Spring Training competition in less than 2 weeks.
While the Cubs continue to scout talent in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Japan, the Cubs have also made South Korea a key target, due in large part to the country’s recent success on the international playing field. Just this past summer in the Beijing Olympics, South Korea won the Gold Medal by beating powerhouse Japan in the semifinals and Cuba in the finals. The team went 9-0 during the Olympics. South Korea advanced to the semifinals of the 2006 World Baseball Classic, but lost to eventual Champion Japan. The South Koreans also won the Bronze Medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Even the younger 18 and under players from South Korea are showing serious talent that could translate into success at the big league level. Paul Weaver is the Cubs international director of scouting and Steve Wilson is based in Taiwan as the Pacific Rim supervisor of scouting. Both insist that these South Korean players can hold their own with the best players from anywhere else in the world, including the United States. Guess we’ll have to wait a few years to see how it all shakes out in the minor leagues and the big leagues. Keep your fingers crossed- maybe we’ll see one of these players grace the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field sometime soon.