Korean great Man-soo Lee is on the ground in Vietnam to grow baseball across the Indochina Peninsula

Korean great Man-soo Lee is on the ground in Vietnam to grow baseball across the Indochina Peninsula
18/05/2021
"After working in Laos and Vietnam, I've come one step closer to my dream, which is to distribute baseball in the five countries of the Indochina Peninsula: Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar," says the former KBO star.

Lee Man-soo, the former Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) MVP and gold glove catcher, is not done contributing to the development of baseball in Asia. After becoming the vice president of the Lao Baseball Federation, he is now onto supporting the sport in Vietnam.

"I am ready to share all the knowledge and experience I gained over 50 years in baseball," said Lee. "I'm doing my best to have our game spread in southeast Asian countries. So both Laos and Vietnam will associate baseball with Korea and its people."

Lee says his development efforts in Vietnam have been slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a two-week quarantine.

"I knew that the two-week quarantine would not be that easy, but at the same time, I thought this would be a nice opportunity for me to realize my dream of helping baseball establish in Vietnam. So I will be staying here for about two months from now with many schedules."

Baseball and softball have never really thrived in Vietnam. Despite the fact the game was introduced to the country decades ago, the first baseball team was founded only in 2008. The lack of infrastructure is one of the main obstacles to developing the game there.

Lee told WBSC his project plan for Vietnam, which consists of four main objectives, including the establishment of a [national] baseball federation.

"The goal is to create a baseball federation under the Vietnamese National Olympic Committee, so baseball development in Vietnam can start over."

The second pillar of the development plan consists of building baseball infrastructure, Lee says.

The third goal is scouting talent: "I want to visit schools and scout the players myself, to find athletes who have the potential to be part of the very first Vietnamese National Team."

The last part of the plan consists of having meetings with Vietnam's Olympic Committee and investors from the business sector, who can "become friends of the project and help us build baseball venues as soon as possible."

The Vietnamese government has officially approved the establishment of a national baseball and softball governing body. Tran Duc Phan, the deputy chief of the General Department of Sports and Physical Training, will reportedly serve as the first president.

"For now, Vietnamese people are not that familiar with baseball," said Lee. "We tried to figure out the best way to promote baseball here, and this idea came up to us.

An estimated 2,000 amateur players are currently active in the Hanoi, Ho Chi Min and Da Nang areas.

The Korean Ambassador hosted a youth event on 15 and 16 May in Hanoi.

"For now, I think it would be difficult to find elite players. We would start with the players who just enjoy playing baseball, and from there we will move forward," says Lee.

After his stellar KBO playing career with the Samsung Lions (1982-1997), Mr Lee moved to the United States to start a Major League Baseball (MLB) coaching career.

He started in the Cleveland Indians minor league in 1998, then he moved to the Chicago White Sox. He became part of the MLB coaching staff in 2000. He left the US after the 2006 season and returned to the KBO as the bench coach of the SK Wyverns. He became the manager in 2011 and served in the position until 2014.

"After working in Laos and Vietnam," Lee said on a final note, "I've come one step closer to my dream, which is to distribute baseball in the five countries of the Indochina Peninsula: Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar."

Global Game