The Lotte Giants, who are preparing for a fresh start under new manager Kim Tae-hyung, faced an unexpected “drunk driving” risk. Infielder Bae Sung-bin was caught late after hiding his wrongdoing.
“We found out last week that Bae Young-bin was caught in a sobriety checkpoint after having a drinking party in Seoul late last month,” Lotte said in a call with ‘X Sports News’ on Thursday, “and we immediately completed the report to the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) Clean Baseball Center. The club’s punishment committee will be held on the 16th of this month.”
Bae was reportedly caught in a police crackdown on March 23 when he pulled his car out of an alley after calling a substitute driver. Lotte understands that Bae’s blood alcohol level was at a level that would have revoked his license.
Bae joined Lotte as a developmental player after graduating from Hongik University this year. He signed a contract as a full-time player in May and made his dream first-team debut on August 20 against the Kiwoom Heroes. He showed promise, batting .313 (16-for-5) with one stolen base in 18 games for the first team this year, and was labeled as a prospect internally by Lotte.
He started both games against the Hanwha Eagles in Daejeon on Oct. 15-16, the last two games of Lotte’s pennant race this year, and continued to show signs of being a part of the team’s plans for next season.
However, he did the foolish thing of sabotaging his own future by driving under the influence. He further embarrassed the team by not informing them of his offense.
Lotte had just hired Kim Tae-hyung as head coach on October 20 and was preparing to make a leap forward in the 2024 season. After finishing the 2017 season in third place in the regular league and reaching the semi-finals, the team was eager to make a comeback after failing to reach the postseason for six consecutive years until this year.굿모닝토토 도메인
However, Bae Young-bin threw cold water on the team’s efforts. While driving under the influence is an unforgivable “felony,” hiding his wrongdoing from the team is even worse.
Bae Young-bin casually attended Lotte’s finishing camp in Sangdong, Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do, right after he was arrested for drunk driving. It was a selfish act that deceived the club and embarrassed his teammates.
Lotte and the other 10 KBO clubs are working hard to educate rookies and the entire roster on drunk driving prevention. They emphasize the unforgivable nature of drunk driving and the social responsibilities of being a professional baseball player.
Bae Young-bin had a harder time getting to the professional level than most players his age. At a time when he had to sweat more than anyone else, he made the foolish choice to sabotage himself by driving drunk.
Worse yet, he hid his DUI from his team and participated in the finishing camp. Bae Young-bin may have believed that he could cover his tracks by keeping his mouth shut, but it was a foolish move.
Lotte previously had the unpleasant memory of releasing promising pitcher Seo Jun-won, a 2019 first-round pick, in March after he hid the fact that he had an active arrest warrant for soliciting the exploitation of a minor.
After the Seo incident, Lotte stepped up its efforts to prevent players from engaging in deviant behavior. Drunk driving prevention training is conducted regularly, to the point of being excessive. It has been 11 years since a Lotte player drove under the influence of alcohol since Ko Won-jun in 2012.
Bae Young-bin undid all of Lotte’s hard work. At a time when the entire team was trying to make a good run in the 2024 season under new manager Kim Tae-hyung, one man’s misbehavior cost his teammates.
In keeping with the spirit of the times, the KBO is taking a hard line on drunk driving. The KBO’s DUI penalties include a 70-game suspension for a first-time offender with a suspended license, and a one-year disqualification for a first-time offender with a revoked license. A second DUI is punishable by a five-year ban, and a third or more is punishable by permanent disqualification.
Once Lotte realized that Bae Young-bin had been caught drinking and driving, they immediately removed him from the final camp and sent him home. There is a sense of betrayal within the organization.
The Lotte team also has a lot of concerns about Bae Young-bin’s future. In the past, players who have gotten into trouble with the law, including drunk driving, have been sanctioned by the club apart from the KBO’s official discipline. This included suspension from official training activities and payment of fines.
However, with the revision of the KBO rules, the legal basis for clubs to retain players has been virtually eliminated. Aside from education and warnings, clubs have few tools at their disposal to deal with players who have gotten into trouble.
For now, Lotte will hold its own disciplinary committee on April 16. In Seo Jun-won’s case, a severe punishment seems inevitable.
Even if you’re not a baseball player, the public perception of a suspected drunk driver is terrible. It’s not just a one-time mistake, it’s completely cemented as an unacceptable offense.
Bae Young-bin was able to give hope not only to Lotte but also to players from other clubs. A player who hadn’t been picked up by a professional club was brought in as a developmental player and showed potential to be part of the club’s future plans, including a first-team debut.
However, Bae Young-bin’s drunk driving accident cost him a lot. He let down his fans, his club, and most importantly, his trust.