Tigers’ Crowe apologizes for hitting Landers’ Choi Jeong with KBO home run record in sight

INCHEON, After hitting a batter chasing the career home run record in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) with an inside pitch Wednesday, Kia Tigers starter Wil Crowe cut an apologetic figure on the mound. With a two-seam fastball that got away, Crowe hit Choi Jeong of the SSG Landers in the bottom of the first inning at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, just west of Seoul. Choi bent over in immediate and obvious pain, and barely reached first base. Crowe took off his cap and bowed to Choi, who acknowledged the gesture before exiting the game for a pinch runner. Choi began the day tied for the all-time lead with 467 home runs. He was later diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his left rib and could be out for weeks. Crowe went on to pitch five shutout innings in the Tigers' 11-3 victory, and after the game, Crowe offered his apology once again. "First off, I want to say I'm sorry to him. I know he's going for a record, and that was never my intention. I never wanted to do that," Crowe said. "I wan t to say I'm sorry to the fans who came to watch him play because I know today was a big day, especially for some people to try and see that happen. And I just want to make sure everyone knows I am sorry. I had no intention to do that." Choi has been a baseball magnet throughout his career. He has now been hit by a pitch 330 times, already an all-time record by over 100. No other active player has been struck even 200 times. Crowe said it was just his game plan to attack Choi on the inside. "He's a really good, strong, powerful hitter, and I think you have to throw in on him. You have to go inside," the pitcher said. "It got away from me, and you know, not my best pitch. I'm just very sorry to him. I just want to make sure everyone knows that it was not on purpose." The mistake aside, Crowe pitched an efficient game. He threw 48 of his 78 pitches for strikes, while giving up only three singles and striking out three. He touched 153 kilometers per hour with his four-seam fastball, and also mixed in curveba lls, sliders, changeups, two-seamers and sweepers. After giving up 10 runs in 10 innings in two March starts, Crowe has only allowed two runs -- both unearned -- in 16 innings so far in April. Crowe said the key to the turnaround has been his unwavering faith in his pitching plan and his strengths. "I've really just followed what I know I do best," he said. "Just going after guys with my best stuff at all times, and mixing and matching and being unpredictable ... that's kind of how I've been going about it in the last couple of outings." The former major leaguer arrived in the KBO with high expectations but didn't get off to the kind of start the Tigers had envisioned. Crowe said he still managed to stay patient through some early adversity. "When you go through a period like that, you've got to take a deep breath and realize that baseball's going to happen," he said. "Being true to my game plan and true to myself and knowing who I am as a player is kind of what pulled me through." Crowe was pulled afte r only five innings because of some forearm tightness. Crowe said the move was all precautionary and he should be good to go next week. He had thrown 104 pitches last Thursday, which he said was his highest pitch count "in seven or eight years." And when the arm tightened up Wednesday, he didn't want to take any chances. "The season is long. I'm wanting to make 30-plus starts, not five or six," he said. "So just being smart. I am going to get my innings up, and I am going to get where I want to be." Source: Yonhap News Agency