Tag Archives: baseball

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Infielder Darwin Barney Joins Dodgers

by STEVE HAN

The Los Angeles Dodgers has acquired second baseman Darwin Barney, who was designated for assignment by the Chicago Cubs last week. A Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner at second base in 2012, the Asian American ballplayer is expected to add depth to the Dodgers’ infield as a utility man.

The Dodgers will send a player to be named later, likely a minor leaguer, or cash considerations to the Cubs in exchange.

Barney has also played third baseman and shortstop in the last five seasons he spent with the Cubs. The Dodgers are thin on middle infielders behind starters Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon and Justin Turner, as bench player Chone Figgins is on the disabled list with a hip injury.

The 28-year-old is a standout defender at second base. His fielding percentage eclipsed the .990 mark in each of the last five seasons. His acrobatic defensive plays have made highlight reels several times over the years on local sports TV and ESPN’s SportsCenter.

Despite his defensive prowess, Barney has failed to impress as a hitter. His career batting average is just at .244 with 18 home runs. His struggles at the plate became worse this year as he is only hitting .230, but the Dodgers will remain hopeful that he can continue his moderately successful streak against National League opponents. He is hitting .273 average in 107 games against NL West opponents.

Barney, who identifies himself as one-quarter Korean, one-quarter Japanese and half-Caucasian, grew up in Beaverton, Oregon. His maternal grandmother is Korean, and his maternal grandfather is Japanese, though he once told an interviewer that he used to think he was Hawaiian. He talks about his background with interviewer Rick Quan in this 2011 video posted by Hyphen Magazine:

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Struggling Baseball Team Replaces Fans With Robots

by STEVE HAN

It takes commitment and dedication to be a fan. That’s especially the case if you’re a fan of South Korea’s struggling baseball team, the Hanwha Eagles, which finished dead last in the Korea Baseball Organization in four of the last five seasons.

The Eagles are struggling yet again this year as they’ve been in the last place for most of the season. To save their fans from the misery of watching their team lose on a nightly basis–while providing a way to root for the team without having to deal with the agony of losing–the Eagles have brought in cheering robots into the stands that the fans can control from anywhere with access to Internet during the games..

The robots cheer, chant and even perform a Mexican wave, per fans’ instructions.

Many die-hard fans are dismissing the idea as a “gimmick,” but the ballclub has plans to further utilize the robot fans down the road.

“The robots allow fans to cheer for the team at the games even when they’re not physically present,” official at the Eagles told the Korea Times. “We’ll continue our future plans, which include robots using thunder sticks and other digital tools to cheer.”

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Chan Ho Park To Be Honored At SKorean All-Star Game

by STEVE HAN

Retired pitcher Chan Ho Park, South Korea’s pioneering major leaguer, will be honored Friday at the Korean Pro Baseball’s All-Star Game in Gwangju’s Champions Field.

Park, 41, retired in 2012 after 17 seasons in the major leagues. The highlight of his career includes nine seasons he spent with the L.A. Dodgers, during which he was a National League All-Star in 2001. Park also reached the World Series in 2009 with the Philadelphia Phillies, and pitched for the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2010 season. His 124 wins in the major leagues set a record for the most wins by an Asian player.

“I’m proud that I’ve played for as long as I did,” Park told KoreAm in an in-depth interview upon his retirement two years ago. “There were a lot of obstacles.  The early years in the minor leagues and struggling in Texas later on … it was tough. I’ve been at a crossroads so many times, and thought about quitting and going back to Korea. But I stayed patient and endured everything.  That’s what makes me proud.

Hideo Nomo, Park’s former teammate in L.A. and Japan’s pioneering major leaguer, will also be honored the same day in a separate ceremony in Japan.

“Nomo and Park are both true pioneers,” said Peter O’Malley, the former Dodgers president, in a released statement. O’Malley was responsible for signing the two Asian pitchers from their respective countries in the early 1990s. “Today, there have been 40 players from Japan and 14 from South Korea who have played in the major leagues. I am very proud of their leadership and their ongoing commitment to youth baseball in Japan and South Korea” he said.

Park became South Korea’s first ever major leaguer when the Dodgers signed him out of Hanyang University in 1994. Including Park, there have been 14 players from South Korea who have played in the major leagues since then. One of them is current Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, to whom Park served as a mentor back in 2012, when the two played for Korea’s Hanwha Eagles.

Today Park is reportedly developing a baseball training center and entertainment complex in Korea.

To read more of KoreAm‘s interview with Park, where he speaks frankly about the highs and lows of his career, the support of the Korean American community and his baseball legacy, click here.

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Pic of the Day: Hyun-jin Ryu’s Pretty Bat Flip

by JAMES S. KIM

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu has been nothing short of spectacular in his second season with the team. Young teammate Yasiel Puig has also been lights out—especially when it comes to his amazing bat flips. Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully calls him the “maestro” of bat flipping.

Ryu doesn’t get to swing the bat often, but we can only imagine how satisfying it is for a pitcher to help his own cause by putting the ball in play. He looked quite excited this past Friday when he led off the 5th inning against the Colorado Rockies with a ringing double to the warning track in right field. So excited, in fact, that he nearly turned himself around completely on the swing.

Fortunately, Ryu polished off his “bail and wail” swing with a smooth bat flip that makes you wonder if he and Puig operate on a similar wavelength. (Ryu’s number, 99, when flipped upside-down, is 66, which is Puig’s number.)

Talk about an emphatic follow-through.

Ryu shuffles his way down the first base line, then takes it to another gear as he rounds the base and neatly slides into second. And despite having lost some weight coming into the year, it’s not often that Ryu gets to leg out an extra-base hit in the Mile High City. His teammates surely gave him a ribbing for the huffing and puffing that nearly blew down Coors Field.

He didn’t get too long of a break, though. Two pitches later, the Dodgers’ Dee Gordon followed with a triple to the gap in right center field, scoring Ryu to put the boys in blue up 3-0. The running wouldn’t really phase Ryu, as he went on to pitch two more innings. He would get the win, giving up two earned runs over six innings.

 

Image via Dodgers Digest. H/T to NESN

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Ryu’s 7-Inning Shutout Not Enough To Spoil Padres Season Opener

Hyun-Jin Ryu blanked the San Diego Padres for seven innings, but the bullpen and defensive errors turned a one-run lead in the eighth inning to a 3-1 loss for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night at Petco Park.

Ryu showed no signs of the toenail injury he suffered in his first start of the season against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia last week. The 26-year-old struck out seven batters and gave up no runs on only three hits and three walks through seven frames.

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The Dodgers held a 1-0 lead when manager Don Mattingly replaced Ryu with Brian Wilson, who gave up three runs. Rene Rivera sparked the comeback for the Padres with a solo homer to start the inning, followed by an error on a bunt and a hit by Chris Denorfia for two more runs.

“These kind of games happen,” Ryu said of the team’s loss despite his effort. “It’s part of the game. I know it’ll inspire us to try harder.”

Despite the loss, Mattingly praised Ryu who hasn’t given up a run in his first two starts of the season in 12 innings. The skipper was especially impressed how the southpaw mixed up the curveball and slider with his usual fastball and slider. He retired 13 straight batters from third to seventh inning.

“Hyun-Jin [Ryu] was, maybe, just about as good as we’ve seen him,” Mattingly said. “He used all his pitches. Maybe that wasn’t his first time, but he used his curveball, used his slider and obviously, his changeup and fastball were always at where he wanted it. He was really, really good.”

Ryu had to work himself out of a jam in the beginning, as the Padres put runners in scoring positions in each of the first two innings. He then started utilizing his slider and curveball at a significantly higher rate from the third inning and didn’t give up a single hit for the rest of the game.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said Ryu used spring training with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt to make minor tweaks to his curveball. Ellis remained tight lipped about specific changes Ryu made to his curveball, but revealed that he’s gripping the ball deeper and has changed his release point to add more deception.

“He’s worked really hard with his curveball,” Ellis said. “When he started throwing tonight in the game, immediately I could tell that the pitch was different from what he was throwing in the past. He’s a pitch maker.”

Ryu is expected to start for the Dodgers in their home opener against the San Francisco Giants on Friday.

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Texas Rangers Introduce Pricey Sandwich Named After Shin-Soo Choo

Just a few weeks after major league baseball star Shin-Soo Choo was seen in the New York Timeshawking bulgogi, his new ballclub announced a breaded monstrosity as part of their new ballpark concessions lineup.

Dubbed, the “Choomongous,” it’s a two-foot sandwich which features “Asian beef” that looks suspiciously like bulgogi, and “spicy slaw” which makes it seem like they didn’t want to go the full Monty with actual kimchi. A real shame. Topped with sriracha mayo on a bakery fresh bun, the picturessort of make the $26 sandwich look like a hot mess.

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For those who don’t want to shell out that kind of money for a sandwich that supposedly feeds four, you can opt for the mini Choomongous, which sells for a reasonable $10.

Rangers Ballpark will also be offering bacon-on-a-stick, dipped in maple syrup, for $7.

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Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Dodgers

Ryu Gets Win as Dodgers Start Season in Australia

Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched five shutout innings and picked up the win in his first outing of the season, but he injured his toe in the process and is questionable to start during the Dodgers’ next series in San Diego.

The Dodgers swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in their two-game opening series in Australia with a 7-5 win behind Ryu’s solid pitching performance. The 26-year-old struck out five batters and gave up only two hits and a walk while holding the D-backs scoreless for five innings.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly replaced Ryu with Chris Withrow at the start of the sixth inning for precautionary reasons after the southpaw started feeling discomfort in his right foot.

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Ryu hurt his toe after getting on base with a single in the third inning. He seemingly put too much weight on his foot when he stopped on a dime after going around third base on Dee Gordon’s double and hurt his toe nail. In the fifth inning, he was visibly feeling pain in his right foot as he lost his footing on a pitch and stepped out of the mound. Mattingly pulled Ryu as the Dodgers were up 5-0.

“I didn’t go as long as I would have liked,” Ryu said after the game, according to MLB.com. “I like to go more than five innings.”

Ryu’s older and a good friend traveled to Australia from Korea to watch him pitch, according to ESPN. Ryu said he enjoyed his time there but declined to sample kangaroo.

He is scheduled to start when the Dodgers resume regular season play next week against the San Diego Padres, but Mattingly may rest Ryu if his toenail doesn’t recover in time.

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March Issue: One-on-One With Chan Ho Park

The newly retired pitcher reflects on his major league career and the suppport of Korean American fans, during a recent visit to Los Angeles.

story by STEVE HAN
photographs by MARK EDWARD HARRIS

Since retiring from professional baseball last November, Chan Ho Park has had plenty of chances to speak to the press about why he’s leaving the game he loves.

Park already revealed that he’ll pursue a career in baseball administration, possibly with the San Diego Padres, a franchise owned by Peter O’Malley, the ex-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers who made him Korea’s first-ever big leaguer in 1994.

The 40-year-old also announced that he’ll be Korean television network JTBC’s color commentator at the upcoming World Baseball Classic, where Team Korea will look to win its first title.

But one thing the hard-throwing pitcher hadn’t yet had a chance to do until sitting down with KoreAm Journal in February was bid farewell to the Korean American community. Park chatted with KoreAm in Los Angeles, and, over a Korean barbecue lunch intermittently interrupted by fans, talked about his “special” relationship with those who have been behind him throughout his roller coaster career in the major leagues.

You’ve achieved a lot in the major leagues, but with a lot of ups and downs. Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?

I’m proud that I’ve played for as long as I did. There were a lot of obstacles.  The early years in the minor leagues and struggling in Texas later on … it was tough. I’ve been at a crossroads so many times, and thought about quitting and going back to Korea. But I stayed patient and endured everything.  That’s what makes me proud.

Would it be safe to assume that your worst memory in the major leagues was allowing Fernando Tatis [of the St. Louis Cardinals] to hit two grand slams off you in one inning?

When that happened, it hurt so much. I wanted to kill myself. [Laughs.] I wanted to drop everyone who tried to talk to me after that game. That’s how I really felt. But now, I laugh and say, “It’s pretty neat to see my name in a record-breaking milestone.” Not many people know that Tatis and I played together in the minor leagues, when we played for the Mets. So now, every time I talk about his grand slams against me, I smile. I smile, thinking about a teammate who went through difficult times with me down in the minors.

What helped you persevere through adversity?

People who can accept losing are the ones who can last longer, just like me. But those who consider winning as their only option aren’t capable of recovering when they inevitably lose at one point. You have to be prepared to lose if you want to win. That’s how you get ready to become a winner in the end. The only reason I’ve been able to play baseball for as long as I did was because I learned from losing.

You became the center of attention among Korean Americans immediately after signing with the Dodgers in 1994. And the amount of attention you got only grew from there.  How did you deal with the pressure?

I never thought of it as pressure. I often felt lonely here, but the Korean American fans were the ones who stuck with me. What really hit me as pressure was how American fans viewed me as someone who came to the major leagues to represent Korea.

Can you elaborate on that?

Obviously, being Korean is something I’ve always been proud of, but it bothered me when the general public viewed me as Korean, and not Chan Ho Park. For instance, when I made a mistake in a game or didn’t pitch well, a lot of Americans bad-mouthed not me, but Korea. That infuriated me.

Was there anything in particular that you struggled to deal with?

Some Americans created this competition between me and Hideo Nomo (Chan Ho’s former Dodger teammate and Japan’s star pitcher), and talked as if Korea was a poor little country compared to Japan. That angered me. I’ve always believed that my country was great and had this tremendous pride for being Korean, but it was hard for me to accept how Korea was merely some listless country to some Americans at the time.

Do you feel like your success in the major leagues helped change Korea’s image among American baseball fans?

In the end, it only strengthened my pride as a Korean. It motivated me to set a goal. I wanted to change their views, not by talking, but with my skills on the baseball field. That became my ultimate goal.

How did Korean baseball change before and after you made your mark in the major leagues?

Before the Dodgers signed me, professional baseball in Korea was huge. But its popularity started to fade after I came here, because me coming here gave people access to better baseball than the ones they were accustomed to watching. The quality of baseball between the major leagues and the Korean league was evident, obviously. But things changed now because the kids who watched Major League Baseball, which became accessible on television in Korea after I joined the Dodgers, grew up watching the best baseball games in the world. They’ve taken what they’ve watched growing up and applied it to their own games, and later became stars in the Korean league. You could see how much Korean baseball improved at international competitions like the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic.

How far behind is Korean baseball from the major leagues?

I do have doubts on how much Korean baseball improved off the field, not on it. I look at how the game is being managed, how the players are being treated, and also what’s lacking between the teams and the fans, and see that there’s still something missing.  People in Korean baseball have to realize that when fans go to the games, they need to be given a bigger value than simply seeing their favorite teams win.  In sports, there are values bigger than just winning or losing. It’s something that needs to be established culturally.

Cho Sung-min, a former baseball player and teammate of yours back in the ’90s (also ex-husband of Korean actress Choi Jin-sil who committed suicide in 2008), took his own life in January. When both of you were in college, Cho was considered a bigger prospect. It has also been reported that he chose to play professional baseball in Japan, though he had offers from the major leagues, because he didn’t want to follow in your footsteps.  What went through your mind when you heard the news of his death?

Sung-min was a friend of mine. It was a huge shock. It’s a shame that his life had to end that way. Frankly, we weren’t the closest of friends, but what upsets me is the fact that he and I never had a chance to talk about the difficulties he was facing. I’ve always strived to give hope to all my fans, but I couldn’t do that with a colleague of mine whom I should’ve been very close with. I was disappointed in myself when I realized that.

How do you want to be remembered in the Korean American community?

I don’t have a preference on how I want to be remembered. I actually prefer being forgotten. [Laughs.] But I realize that for people who enjoyed watching me play, it’s impossible for them to forget about me because there’s also no way I’ll ever forget about them.  I played at a time when Korea as a nation and Korean Americans as immigrants were struggling in so many aspects, both economically and culturally.  Through me, they were consoled.  They saw this hope that Koreans can make it. So in a sense, I’d like for them to remember me as a friend who lived a generation of struggle and hope together. That’s what makes our relationship special. We faced challenges and adversity together as one.

This article was published in the March 2013 issue of KoreAmSubscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the March issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).