|Josh Lindblom of the Doosan Bears throws a pitch against the SK Wyverns in Game 1 of the Korea Series at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, Sunday. Yonhap|
Lindblom becomes first foreigner to receive Choi Dong-won award
By Kang Aa-young
Doosan Bears' American pitcher Josh Lindblom was voted Korea's best pitcher of the year, Tuesday, the first foreigner to receive the award.
Lindblom, 31, won the fifth annual BNK Busan Bank Choi Dong-won Award, named after the late former All-Star and 1984 MVP in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).
According to the Choi Dong-won Memorial Foundation, Lindblom won five of the eight votes cast by the jury for the 23 eligible pitchers who met one of seven criteria: 30 starts, 180 innings pitched, 15 or more wins, at least 150 strikeouts, at least 15 quality starts, an ERA of 2.50 or less and at least 40 saves. Lindblom met four of the seven.
The award was launched in 2014, aimed at recognizing and encouraging the nation's best homegrown hurler in the top professional baseball league.
Until last year, the award was only given to Korean-born pitchers. Past awardees include Yang Hyeon-jong, Yoo Hee-kwan and Chang Won-Jun. But starting this year, the foundation altered the rule to promote the true meaning of the Choi Dong-won spirit by considering foreign pitchers.
Foreign players have been allowed in the KBO since 1998 and teams can sign up to two pitchers.
Lindblom, in his fourth KBO season and first with the Bears, went 15-4 with a league-leading 2.88 earned run average over 168 2/3 innings this year. The right-hander recorded 21 quality starts in 26 games and ranked seventh with 157 strikeouts.
Before joining the KBO, Lindblom pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates over five seasons in the major leagues. He previously pitched for the Lotte Giants in the KBO before signing a contract with the Doosan Bears last December.
The formal award ceremony will be held at the head office of Busan Bank in Busan at 11 a.m., Sunday. Lindblom will receive 20 million won ($17,840) in prize money from Busan Bank.
The ceremony date pays tribute to Choi's jersey number, 11. Choi first came to public attention after helping Korea win a medal in the 1980 Amateur World Series.
His best season was in 1984, when he went 27-13 with a 2.40 ERA. He led the league with 223 strikeouts and won the MVP award the same year. By pitching more than 200 innings for the Giants in his first five seasons, he gained the nickname "Iron Arm."
Choi also pitched for the Samsung Lions in the 1989 and 1990 seasons, before retiring from baseball when he was 32. He returned as the pitching coach for the Hanwha Eagles in 2005. He also managed Hanwha's minor league team from 2006 to 2008.
Choi died of colorectal cancer in 2011 at the age of 53.