Military Service Hangs Over The Head Of Indians' Choo

The Cleveland Indians are bad. So bad, that as we reported earlier, Vegas has them as the team least likely to win the World Series this season. In the past year and a half the Indians roster has been gutted, overhauling a team that was a game away from the World Series in 2007.

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Now it looks like the Indians may be losing another star. Not to an injury, like Travis Hafner or Jake Westbrook, or an outgoing GM Mark Shapiro trade, like CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez. Not even to free agency. No, today it appears that the Indians may lose one of their only stars, outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to the Republic of Korea's military.

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What am I talking about? You see, Choo is a native of South Korea, which requires its male citizens to serve two years in the military before the age of 30. Choo turns 28 in July and has yet to serve at all.

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The good news is that he isn't without options. If he plays for South Korea in the 2010 Asian Games, and wins the gold medal, he would have his service duty waived. The trouble is to play in the tournament he would need the Indians' permission, and to win the tournament South Korea would have to overcome Japan, as well as other Asian stalwarts like Chinese Taipei.

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As the AP article points out Choo's situation gets a bit dicey if he doesn't play for South Korea:

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The situation would become more complicated if Choo doesn't play on the team or if South Korea doesn't win the tournament. He's reluctant to go into details since this is a sensitive issue in his country, where his success with the Indians has turned him into a well-known figure.

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Choo could refuse to return to South Korea or apply for citizenship in the United States, but he realizes that decision may not be well-received in his country, where people follow his performance on a daily basis.

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"I try not to think about it," Choo said. "It's the same as last year. I didn't think about it then. The only thing I know how to do is play baseball."

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As great as denial is as a mental escape technique, Choo better start thinking about his options soon -- as should the Indians -- because it would be a crying shame for one of baseball's up-and-coming stars to have to take off two years in the middle of his career. Yes, this was done during World War II, with American players such as Joe DiMaggio, but it is peacetime in South Korea, and Shin-Soo Choo is a national celebrity.

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