Cleveland Indians fans may not have realized it, but their star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo played one of the most important games of his life on Friday, November 19, 2010 in the Asian Games gold medal showdown against Taiwan.
With South Korea’s 9-3 victory in the final in Guangzhou, China, Choo not only grabbed a gold medal but more importantly will not have to serve a mandatory two-year military stint in his homeland. The South Korean government had promised every team member an exemption from military service if it won the gold medal.
South Korean men are required to serve two years in the military by the time they turn 30 years old. Choo turned 28 in July and would most likely had to have missed the 2011 and 2012 MLB seasons without the exemption.
There was even talk that Choo would give up his South Korean citizenship to get around the military service.
But Choo helped his South Korean team immensely to grab the gold medal, driving in two runs in Friday’s final over Taiwan and hitting .571 (8-14) with three homers, eight runs, six walks and 11 RBI over five games.
Choo, whose agent is Scott Boras, is eligible for arbitration this off-season and is coming off a strong year of hitting .300 with 31 doubles, 22 home runs, 90 RBI, 22 steals and a .401 on-base percentage.
South Korea took the bronze medal at the 2006 Asian Games after having won the previous two titles.
The South Korean government gave its football players a military exemption in 2002 after the co-hosts reached the semi-finals of the World Cup. Military exemptions are also given for reaching the second round of the World Cup and the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic as well as to Olympic medalists and Asian Games gold medalists.