‘He bet on himself’: South Korean teen Won-Bin Cho brings intriguing swing to Cardinals’ minor-league camp

Derrick Goold

JUPITER, Fla. — Before compliments and encouragement from coaches lured him onto the field and his talent took root, what brought Won-Bin Cho back to the ballpark with his older brother day after day was the sweet promise of the treats that followed baseball.

At 7, maybe 8, Cho tagged along to watch his brother play, but really he was waiting for the reward that came after playing. Cho smiled as he described the fried chicken, the burgers, the ramen that would await the team — an “abundance” of postgame delicacies that he wouldn’t get as often at home, he said. Of course he wanted to play once he feasted his eyes on the perks.

“So,” said Han Lee, Cho’s agent, “free snacks led to him being with the Cardinals.”

Well, that and one of the most intriguing swings of spring.

When the Cardinals open minor-league camp with official workouts Monday, Cho will make his debut as a pro less than two months after signing with the Cardinals and six months after he left South Korea to bet on his ability.

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At 18, Cho will be the fourth-youngest position player in camp, the second-youngest outfielder, and the most recent to sign a professional contract. All of this is new — from the country to the level of competition, from the jersey number the Cardinals have assigned for him (53) to what the Cardinals are…

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