Several Mississippians, all pitchers, have found success in the Korean Baseball Organization, which is getting a lot of attention these days (thanks to ESPN) as the only professional league going. Gary Rath, the Gulfport native and ex-Mississippi State All-American, won 43 games over parts of four years in the KBO between 2001 and ’08, including a 17-8, 2.60 ERA season with Doosan in 2004. Ole Miss product Mickey Callaway, now the Los Angeles Angels pitching coach, went 32-22 in three seasons in the KBO, including a 16-win campaign in 2005. Rath and Callaway, both of whom had some big league time, went to Korea at the end of their careers. Former Southern Miss standout Scott Copeland used a recent stint in the KBO as a route back to the big leagues. After making the majors with Toronto in 2015 (his sixth pro season), Copeland was released early in 2016 and went to Korea, where he made 13 starts for the LG Twins and then re-signed with the Blue Jays later that summer. He ultimately returned to the big leagues with the New York Mets – for one game — in 2018. Copeland spent last season in Washington’s system and is currently a minor league free agent. Meridian native Jamie Brown (2006-08), Jackson State alum Mike Farmer (2000-01), Columbus’ Luther Hackman (2005), UM alum Phil Irwin (2015) and ex-Purvis High star Kenny Rayborn (2007-08) also pitched in the KBO. Brown, Farmer, Hackman and Irwin had MLB appearances on their resumes.
ESPN will televise LIVE baseball from the Korean Baseball Organization beginning Tuesday morning (midnight CDT). As Jack Buck might’ve said, “Go crazy, folks.” If you’re wondering about a Mississippi connection in the KBO, there are at least a couple. Former Mississippi Braves Jake Brigham (2015) and Mel Rojas Jr. (2016) are established three-year veterans there, Brigham with the Kiwoom Heroes and Rojas with the KT Wiz. Brigham, a right-handed starter, went 6-3 with a 3.05 ERA for the M-Braves in 2015 and made the Southern League All-Star Game. He reached Atlanta later that summer and got into 12 games, his only MLB appearances. Brigham is 34-18, 3.72 in the KBO. Rojas, son of the ex-big league pitcher, batted .244 with two homers in 35 games for the ’16 M-Braves. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound switch-hitting outfielder has been a force in South Korea, belting 85 homers and hitting .310 over his three seasons. Quite a few former major leaguers are on KBO rosters.