|Wednesday, April 23
Minor leaguer might face animal cruelty charges
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A minor league pitcher might face animal cruelty charges for injuring a protected bird with a thrown baseball.
Jae-kuk Ryu, a 19-year-old South Korean pitcher for the Class-A Daytona Cubs, knocked an osprey from its perch during pregame practice Monday night.
The team announced Wednesday night that it sent Ryu to Lansing, Mich. of the Class-A Midwest League.
The male bird's eye was seriously injured. Ospreys are recognized by the state as a species of special concern, meaning their habitats are vulnerable. Anyone who wounds or kills an osprey can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 60 days in jail.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating and plans to submit its findings to the state attorney's office next week, spokeswoman Joy Hill said.
"We've received a number of calls from an outraged public. I just talked to one woman; she wants him deported," Hill said. " have zero tolerance for this kind of thing."
Ryu isn't the first ballplayer to target a bird with a thrown ball. On Aug. 4, 1983, Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield killed a seagull in Toronto with a warmup throw. The Ontario police charged him with animal cruelty, although the charge was later dropped.
The Chicago Cubs, who signed Ryu two years ago, are conducting their own investigation to determine how the pitcher will be punished.
"I can assure you it would be more than the average citizen will receive," farm director Oneri Fleita said. "The average citizen certainly wouldn't be demoted or docked pay or fined or whatever it might be. It was certainly something we don't condone, and we will make sure that the matter is rectified to the best of our ability."
Ryu was not available for comment Wednesday. He has an 0-1 record and 3.05 ERA in four starts, with 22 strikeouts in 20-2/3 innings.
Daytona general manager Buck Rogers said the team will hold a fund-raiser for the Animal Clinic of Edgewater on Friday night. The Chicago Cubs will provide autographed balls for auction, and the Daytona Cubs will donate $1 for every fan in attendance.