While baseball may be about to enter the offseason here in North America, and players and fans of the San Francisco Giants are still basking in their championship season, one player is about to play arguably some of the most important baseball of his career.
Shin-Soo Choo will be representing his native South Korea in the 2010 Asian Games, which begin next Friday, with the baseball competition starting that Saturday.
However, Choo will be playing for more than just his country, but also his future, in a matter of speaking.
Choo, 28, has yet to complete his mandatory two years of military service to South Korea, which is to be done by all able-bodied South Korean men by the time that they turn 30.
Choo has become one of the better all-around outfielders in the American League over the past two or three seasons, and appears to be in the prime of his career, meaning a two-year break from baseball could be devastating both to his career and to the Cleveland Indians, for whom he plays.
There has been speculation, however, that it is possible for Choo to be granted an exception from his military service should he help the South Korean team bring home a gold medal at the games, putting a tremendous amount of pressure on Choo.
Another option for Choo would be to simply give up his Korean citizenship and begin the process of becoming an American citizen, but Choo has expressed concern in this, stating that the people of South Korea are very supportive of him, and he worries that this act would not be very well-received, reports an ESPN article from the spring.
Cleveland, and indeed baseball, fans may very well be paying more attention to the Asian Games than ever before, with the consequence of Choo missing two of his prime seasons in MLB being absolutely devastating.
Eleven teams will participate in the baseball competition at the games, which are being held in Guangzhou, China.
South Korea is in a pool with Pakistan, Hong Kong and the Chinese Taipei. They open the tournament against Taipei on the 13th.
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