Choi Ji-man (AP-Yonhap)
The Pittsburgh Pirates' South Korean first baseman Choi Ji-man said Monday he was "deeply hurt" to miss out on a chance to represent the country at the upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBC), saying the club's decision to block his participation for medical reasons disappointed him.
Earlier in the day, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) had announced it had cut Choi from the 30-man roster for the WBC, after the "medical objection" submitted by the Pirates had been upheld.
The Pirates cited Choi's surgery in November to remove a bone fragment in his right elbow.
In a statement released by his Seoul-based agency, Sports Vibe, Choi claimed his rehab had been going smoothly despite the Pirates' concerns about his health.
"I was healthy enough to take live batting practice recently," Choi said. "I am extremely disappointed and deeply hurt, because I was building up nicely for the national team training camp in the middle of this month and the first round of the WBC."
Choi said he had been "elated" to be named to the national team in January, adding, "Regardless of sports, I think every athlete dreams of wearing the national team flag on their chest and representing the country."
"Maybe it's because I had such expectations. I was so devastated by this decision," Choi went on. "Even though my dream of playing for the country was spoiled by situations against my intention, I absolutely want to realize this dream if I have an opportunity in the future. I believe I will have that chance to contribute to the country if I can stay healthy in the majors."
Choi said he will be rooting for South Korea from afar and added, "This will not be an easy journey, but I am confident we will have a great tournament."
Choi was traded to the Pirates by the Tampa Bay Rays in November, after spending the previous 4 1/2 seasons in Florida. He went under the knife only days before the trade. (Yonhap)