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Pitcher demoted day after hitting protected bird

Associated Press

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A minor league pitcher accused of hitting an osprey with a baseball has been charged with harming a protected bird.

Jae Kuk Ryu, a 19-year-old South Korean pitcher, was charged Thursday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the agency said. He faces a maximum fine of $500 and 60 days in jail for the second-degree misdemeanor.

Ospreys are recognized by the state as a species of special concern, meaning their habitats are vulnerable.

Ryu could not be reached for comment because he was traveling to Michigan, where he was sent to play for Lansing of the Class-A Midwest League after being demoted from the Class-A Daytona Cubs. Ryu will have to return to Volusia County to answer the charge. It was unclear when a hearing would be held.

"He was remorseful," said Buck Rogers, general manager of the Daytona Cubs. "He knew he screwed up."

Ryu was demoted Wednesday after witnesses said he knocked an osprey from its perch during Cubs pre-game practice Monday night at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. The male bird, which had been nesting with its mate and a brood of fuzzy chicks on a 40-foot light pole over left field, suffered a serious eye injury.

The injured bird's chances for being released into the wild appeared bleak Thursday, when he was taken to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland. Clinic supervisor Drew Bickford said injured osprey are often put to sleep if they can't hunt for their own food, which is likely to be the bird's case.

But center officials said the bird could also be sent to a nature center.

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