Biloxi Shuckers

Here’s why former MLB outfielder Michael Choice is headed to Korea

Biloxi Shucker Michael Choice sends the ball to the outfield during game against Montgomery. Choice is set to join Korea’s professional baseball league.
Biloxi Shucker Michael Choice sends the ball to the outfield during game against Montgomery. Choice is set to join Korea’s professional baseball league. ttisbell@sunherald.com file

At first glance, it looks like Michael Choice is trying a page out of Eric Thames’ playbook — although he said that’s not exactly the case.

The former first round draft pick has decided to leave the Biloxi Shuckers and join the Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization.

The Milwaukee Brewers announced Friday night that Choice’s contract had been sold. The Heroes announced the $200,000 deal on their website. Choice’s contract is through the end of the 2017 season.

Similar moves have paid off for former MLB players. The latest success story belongs to Thames, whose resurrected baseball career in the KBO and now with the Milwaukee Brewers has prompted stories like one from USA Today entitled “From bust to ‘God’ and back: Eric Thames’ amazing MLB comeback story.”

Asked specifically about Thames on Saturday, Choice, 27, said the Brewers’ big leaguer had nothing to do with his decision. In the end, Choice’s decision to go overseas was all about opportunity.

“I would have made this move way before Eric Thames did what he did,” Choice told the Sun Herald. “I think it’s kind of easy for people to look at it like that and assume that’s what made me make that move, but that has nothing to do with it. The last time I was in Double-A was five years ago, so in my mind this is an opportunity to play at a higher level, or where I feel I should be in this game. It was an easy decision. It has nothing to do with a resurgence or anything like that.

“If it happens like that, then great. Obviously I wouldn’t mind following in those footsteps by any means, but that had no real significance in my decision.”

Choice said the opportunity actually arose while the Shuckers were in Jacksonville. He said a scout talked to him after one of their Southern League games to gauge interest. From there, he said, the ball got moving rather quickly.

“It’s pretty simple: If somebody offers you a job to make more money, you’re not going to think too much about it before you take the job,” he said. “That’s what it came down to. I’m not really one of those guys who has to be in affiliated ball. I’m trying to make as much money in this game as I can before I’m done. That’s the main goal. I’ve played in the big leagues and know what it has to offer. If things go well over here I can always work my way back. At this point it’s definitely about how much I can make in my career.”

Road to here

After being released by the Baltimore Orioles on May 2, Choice, 27, signed a minor league contract with the Brewers three days later but was quickly placed on the disabled list.

Upon being activated from the DL, Choice hit right away for the Brewers’ Double-A affiliate. Heading into the team’s five-game series at the Mississippi Braves, Choice hit .272 with a .349 on-base percentage and .503 slugging percentage in 48 games. He was also among the team’s leaders in home runs (9) and RBIs (29). He even compiled a 20-game on-base streak for the majority of June. The highlight of his stint in Biloxi came on July 10 when he belted three home runs. Choice was placed on the temporary inactive list July 19 while details of the move were being ironed out.

“I definitely thank the Brewers organization for bringing me in so fast and giving me the opportunity,” Choice said. “Without being able to get into Biloxi as fast as I did from Norfolk and get the ball rolling, I don’t know if I would have gotten the same opportunity. I definitely give props to them because they put me in a situation to still go out and showcase what I can do.”

First rounder

After being drafted by the Oakland Athletics 10th overall in the 2010 draft, Choice quickly climbed through the minors. He made his MLB debut in 2013 with the A’s, hitting .278 in nine games. He was traded that offseason to Texas and went on to hit .181 in 87 games for the Rangers between ’14 and ’15.

Choice spent the 2016 season with the Cleveland Indians’ Triple-A affiliate before signing with the Orioles prior to the 2017 season.

Choice expects to make his Heroes debut by the end of the month.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2321, @PatrickOchs

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