There’s suiting up for your home country for national pride. And then there’s suiting up for national pride combined with required military service on the line.
Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is currently experiencing the latter.
On Thursday, at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, Choo launched his third homer of the tournament to help South Korea to a 7-1 win over China. That puts the South Koreans in Friday’s gold medal game against the defending champs from Taiwan.
According to Korean military regulations, athletes will receive an exemption from 30 months of military conscription if they capture the gold. All able-bodied South Korean men are required to serve two years in the military by the end of their 30th year. Choo, who turned 28 in July, is using his bat to escape that obligation.
Through four games, all Choo has done is go 6-for-10 at the plate with three home runs, five walks, eight runs scored and nine RBIs. In Thursday’s win, he went 1-for-1 with a homer. China walked him in his other three plate appearances, but that didn’t stop him from crossing home plate twice.
The question is, however, if South Korea slips to the silver, what does that mean for Choo? The Indians would like to explore a long-term extension with the outfielder as he is entering his prime on the big league stage. Rest assured, Choo plans on doing all he can to sidestep the possible military obligation.
One option that exists is for Choo to potentially apply to become a United States citizen. He does have a home in Buckeye, Ariz., so such a move is certainly a possibility. One way or another, it appears as though Choo will remain in a Tribe uniform and not one issued by the South Korean military.