Notable former MLB players still playing in the KBO League

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 18: KT Wiz players celebrate after winning the Korean Series Game 4 between Doosan Bears and KT Wiz at Gocheok Skydome on November 18, 2021 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 18: KT Wiz players celebrate after winning the Korean Series Game 4 between Doosan Bears and KT Wiz at Gocheok Skydome on November 18, 2021 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Han Myung-Gu/Getty Images) /
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SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – NOVEMBER 23: Outfielder Aaron Altherr #23 of NC Dinos hits RBI double to make it 1-0 in the bottom of fifth inning during the Korean Series Game Five between Doosan Bears and NC Dinos at the Gocheok Skydome on November 23, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA – NOVEMBER 23: Outfielder Aaron Altherr #23 of NC Dinos hits RBI double to make it 1-0 in the bottom of fifth inning during the Korean Series Game Five between Doosan Bears and NC Dinos at the Gocheok Skydome on November 23, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images) /

Infielder Jamie Romak (MLB career: 2014-2015 with 2 MLB organizations)

Jamie Romak, 36, has been in the KBO for the past five seasons with the SSG Landers. Romak was recently released at the conclusion of the 2021 regular season but he was a highly successful player during his tenure there. Romak  played 626 games for the Landers, hitting 155 home runs good for a .273 batting average. Defensively, he saw extensive time at first base, second base, third base, and the outfield corners for the Landers. In 2021, Romak played just first base and hit 20 home runs in 107 games.

Outfielder Aaron Altherr (MLB career: 2014-2019 with 3 MLB organizations)

31-year-old Aaron Altherr has spent the last two seasons in Korea after a lengthy stint as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. His KBO tenure may only prove to be two seasons, as the NC Dinos decided not to re-sign him at the conclusion of this past season. Between 2020 and 2021, Altherr played in 278 games for the Dinos, hitting 63 home runs and stealing 42 bases and putting up a .276 batting average. He is capable of playing all three outfield spots but spent all of his time in the KBO as a center fielder.

First baseman Byung-ho Park (MLB career: 2016 with the Minnesota Twins)

Byung-ho Park, 35, spent just a single season with the Twins before being demoted and ultimately released at the end of the 2017 season. Park elected to return to the KBO as a member of the Kiwoom Heroes where he is one of the most successful players in recent history. He is a two-time KBO MVP, five-time Gold Glove Award winner, five-time home run leader, and four-time RBI leader in the league. He possesses huge power from the right side and has hit a total of 314 home runs in the KBO over 13 seasons.

First baseman Dae-ho Lee (MLB career: 2016 with the Seattle Mariners)

Dae-ho Lee has followed a very similar career path that Byung-ho Park has taken. Lee had a hugely successful run in the KBO before trying his hand and, ultimately, failing to produce in the American MLB. Lee was the 2010 KBO MVP and is a six-time Gold Glove Award winner and has won the KBO Triple Crown twice; meaning he led the entire league in batting average, home runs and RBI. Last season as a member of the Lotte Giants, Lee played in 113 games, hitting 19 home runs and driving in 81 runs while appearing primarily as the club’s designated hitter but also seeing some time at first base.

Starting pitcher Drew Rucinski (MLB career: 2014-2015, 2017-2018 with 3 MLB organizations)

Neenah, Wisc., native Drew Rucinski has spent the last three seasons as a member of the NC Dinos after a largely unsuccessful four-year tenure in Major League Baseball. Rucinski, 33, has a 43-24 record with a 3.09 ERA in 90 starts for the Dinos, striking out 463 batters and allowing home runs at just a 0.7 HR/9 rate.

Starting pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne (MLB career: 2014-2019 with 5 MLB organizations)

34-year-old Odrisamer Despaigne had bounced around all over the major leagues before finding a home and settling in the KBO with the KT Wiz. Despaigne won the Korean Series championship with the Wiz last season and was a big cog in their rotation; making 33 starts and going 13-10 with a 3.39 ERA and 165 strikeouts. Despaigne allowed just 10 home runs all season last year in 188+ innings.

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As we saw with the Independent Leagues and the Mexican League, there are a ton of former MLB players still out there trying to make a name for themselves in the professional baseball world. The Korean Baseball Organization, or KBO, is another league that former players have gravitated towards in recent years.

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