Hanwha Eagles infielder Ha Joo-seok took a breathalyzer test on November 19 at 5:50 a.m. in Mocher, Dong-gu, Daejeon.
His blood alcohol content was 0.078%, which is just under the 0.080% threshold for license revocation. Hanwha immediately notified the KBO Clean Baseball Center after receiving the report of Ha’s DUI. The KBO suspended his license for 70 games.
Ha was participating in the team’s offseason camp in Daejeon at the time, so the club was even more shocked. His DUI at 5:50 a.m. on a training day meant that he could have participated in training that day while intoxicated. Since last year, there was no club discipline as the KBO no longer allows clubs to self-discipline, but the club cut his salary by 50.2% (100 million won) from last year (290 million won). The actual cut is even larger, as only 50% of the per diem is paid during the suspension.
Ha Joo-suk reflected on his drunk driving and said, “I apologize to everyone in the baseball world for the trouble I caused with the drunk driving incident. I would like to reiterate that I am very sorry to the fans who have loved Korean professional baseball with an even heavier heart. I have tarnished the honor of all baseball players with a single mistake, and as the captain of the team, I have shown a bad example to my juniors, all of which were uncontrollable and stupid actions.”
Ha was expelled from the first team on June 16 last year for throwing his bat and helmet in the dugout in anger at an umpire’s call against Lotte. He said, “I humbly accept your stinging reprimands and advice for the part where I disappointed the fans again despite one unsavory incident last summer. I will take the time to reflect and realize how to control myself better in the future. I will reflect, reflect, reflect, and live with a heart of atonement.”
Hanwha signed Oh Sun-jin to a one-year, 400 million won ($400,000,000) free-agent contract to play shortstop as Ha Joo-seok is now unable to play half of 2023. Lee Do-yoon, Park Jung-hyun, Lee Do-yoon, Moon Hyun-bin, and Lee Min-joon played shortstop until the 25th. The change in center field, the most important position in the defense, was not a small blow to the team.
Hanwha had played 68 games of the season by the 24th. If the team plays two more games, Ha could theoretically return on the 29th against KT, although there is the rainy season cancellation factor. Ha has been unable to travel for both the first and second teams. However, he is allowed to participate in rehabilitation games and practice games with college teams, but Hanwha hasn’t used him at all for fear of public opinion and has been training privately. In May of this year, he visited his alma mater, Shin Il-Go, to donate his talents.
The question now is when he will return. Unlike pitchers, 안전놀이터 who can build up their bodies by pitching individually, outfielders need to be able to hit, play defense, and run the bases, making it difficult for Ha to return to the first team right away. At this point, it’s likely that he will be called up to the first team after playing a few games in the Futures League.
Hanwha is reportedly listening to its fans. According to a baseball insider familiar with the club’s situation, Hanwha is mulling over the timing of Ha’s return. While Ha’s abilities are obviously a big part of the team, the team is considering the impact on the team’s image and the baseball world as a whole. “The timing of Ha’s return has not yet been decided,” a Hanwha official said recently.