Drunken Fan Attacks Korean Baseball Umpire

D-Bo , May 1, 2014, 6:48 p.m.

In Gwangju, Korea, a Korean baseball umpire was attacked by a drunken fan on the field during a game between the Kia Tigers and SK's Wyverns.  The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) match was played on the home field of the Kia Tigers when a male fan ran onto the field and jumped the first base umpire Park Keun-young from behind. The incident happened before the start of the top of the seventh.

The fan had climbed over the first base side fence and gave a new meaning to the “Surprise Zone.” The Tigers’ brand new home, Gwangju-Kia Champions Field, features the Surprise Zone along the first base and the third base lines on the ground level for fans to enjoy the action from up close.

The Tigers don’t place security guards in front of the Surprise Zone seats because they may block spectators’ views.  The fan, later identified as a 30-year-old, wrapped his arm around the umpire’s neck before the two were separated by SK’s first base coach Back Jae-ho, former San Francisco Giants first baseman Brett Pill and a security guard.  The Tigers handed the fan over to local police.

The incident came on the heels of a series of questionable calls made during the three-game series. In the series opener on Tuesday, second base umpire Na Gwang-nam called an SK runner safe on a steal attempt at second base, even though replays showed the runner was out.  Na was later replaced by Park, who was an alternate, citing an illness. Na was hospitalized on Wednesday with food poisoning.  The Tigers ended up winning the game 6-3. Their manager Sun Dong-yol apologized for “the unpleasant incident that caused our fans concern.”

Incidentally, Park was involved in a highly controversial blown call last season that prompted his demotion to the Futures League, the KBO’s minor league. Park missed a force out at second base in a game between the Nexen Heroes and the LG Twins in Seoul on June 15 and called an LG runner safe, even though the player sliding into the bag was out by a substantial margin.

Park’s was among a series of officiating mishaps that marred the KBO last season. Just about a month into the 2014 season, officiating has once again taken the center stage, prompting fans to call for expansion of the video review system.  Currently, the KBO allows video replay on home run calls only. Frustrated fans and skeptics of the current state of officiating in the league believe the KBO should follow Major League Baseball (MLB) and expand its replay to cover fair or foul calls and force play at bases.

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