A South Korean worth nearly a billion dollars has mastered the knuckleball well enough to earn a start with the Rockland Boulders of the CanAm League.
Min Hur is set to start in the penultimate game of the Boulders’ 2013 season under a contract signed Friday. The game is scheduled for Sunday, September 1 at 5 p.m. against the Newark Bears at Provident Bank Park in Ramapo, New York which serves as home stadium of the Pomona-based Boulders. The live broadcast of the game will be fed to S. Korea’s estimated 20 million baseball fans by TV, the internet and mobile phones as well as to upstate New York fans on cable TV.
Hur’s contract with the Boulders makes him simultaneously a pitcher for a professional US team and owner of the Goyang Wonders of the Korea Baseball Organization. Hur founded the Wonders in 2011 as Korea’s first independent pro baseball team with a small portion of his fortune. Thanks to the runaway success in China of Dungeon and Warrior, a video game Hur developed, as of 2011 his fortune was estimated at $900 million. It’s big enough that Hur considered buying the Los Angeles Dodgers when it was put up for sale that year.
The media attention Hur grabbed as one of Korea’s richest and quirkiest entrepreneurs has been magnified by his quest to become a pro knuckleballer. His eight years of practice throwing knuckleballs included instruction from Hall-of-Famer Phil Nierko. The result is a 56-mph knuckleball that Hur had taken to rookie tryout camps with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners before finally signing with the Boulders after a two-week tryout period in July.
“I’m happy to show the Wonders players and others who haven’t had a chance that you’ll see a fruit of your effort if you don’t give up and keep trying,” Hur philosophized. “I’ll continue to take up challenges for a higher stage.”
Hur even gave up his CEO position with his ecommerce site wemakeprice.com last month to pursue his dream of becoming a professional knuckleballer.
The Boulders are promoting their colorful new pitcher as “Minsanity”.
“Min Hur has earned the right to pitch for the Rockland Boulders as our first Korean player as well as our first knuckleball pitcher,” said Boulders President Ken Lehner. “We believe that Min pitching for the Boulders is the first step in an international working relationship between the Goyang Wonders and the Rockland Boulders that will be beneficial to independent baseball as a whole. The Knicks had Linsanity in 2012 and the Boulders have Minsanity in 2013.”
Hur isn’t shy about promoting himself. He has bought and passed out tickets to his US pro debut to the local Korean community and has made available souvenir t-shirts reading “Min Mania” and “Minsanity”.
Hur has also been aggressive in promoting his Wonders. He took the whole squad to Japan for 50 days as part of its three months of winter training. He has been spending about three or four times the $880,000 he had originally budgeted annually for the team. As a result several of its players have been signed by teams in Korea’s top-tier pro league.
“Hur devotes his private fortune to run the baseball club,” remarked the Wonders’ general manager Ha Song.