Tag Archives: baseball

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Pic of the Day: Angels’ Hank Conger Trips, Crashes and Burns

by JAMES S. KIM

Who said baseball was a boring sport?

The diehard fan? Never. But maybe if the MLB hired special effects teams or had Michael Bay direct baseball broadcasts, the number of viewers would go through the roof. Except Dodger fans, though, because they still can’t watch their boys in blue on the tube.

In a game against the Baltimore Orioles last year, Los Angeles Angels catcher Hank Conger laid down a perfect bunt to beat the defensive shift. With no one covering third base, Hank had all the time in the world to stroll up to first base, but it was anything but easy.

Sometimes, life throws curveballs at you, and in Hank’s case, that meant a defective cleat or, according to the GIF below, an airstrike. Just a few steps out of the batter’s box, he trips and crashes spectacularly, made all the more brilliant with the addition of explosions.

Hank Conger

Don’t worry, folks. Hank made it out alive, scrambling the rest of the way to safety. That’s what gets it done in the major leagues. You can watch the full play below.

Photo by Eric Sueyoshi; Image via Imgur

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Chan Ho Park Pays Visit to L.A. Exhibit That Celebrates Diversity in Baseball

story by STEVE HAN
photographs by MARIO GERSHOM REYES / RAFU SHIMPO

As Chan Ho Park strolled into the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, with his wife at his side and holding hands with their two daughters, the museum’s president and CEO Greg Kimura greeted the family and then asked the girls, “I know he’s just a dad to you girls, but you do know that your dad is a legend, right?”

Park, who retired from professional baseball in 2012, paid a visit to the museum on Aug. 27 to view the baseball exhibit, “Dodgers: Brotherhood of the Game,” which explores and celebrates his career, as well as those of other former players (Jackie Robinson, Fernando Valenzuela and Hideo Nomo), manager (Tommy Lasorda) and executives (Branch Rickey, Walter O’Malley and Peter O’Malley), whose accomplishments on the baseball field go beyond statistics and wins. The exhibit recounts their contribution to shaping America’s racial diversity and the civil rights movement with stories, photos and original artifacts.

Peter O’Malley, the former owner of the Dodgers who signed Park and made him Korea’s first ever major leaguer in 1994, accompanied the family.

“I’m just so proud of him,” said O’Malley. “Chan Ho came to the Dodgers when no one at the organization spoke Korean. He didn’t speak much English. But he wasn’t reluctant at all. He wanted to face the best hitters in the major leagues and challenge them.”

After arriving in the major leagues, Park soon became one of the best pitchers for the Dodgers. He went on to win at least 13 games for five straight seasons between 1997 and 2001. His success in the major leagues opened something of a floodgate for South Korean ballplayers from Byung-Hyun Kim to Hee-Seop Choi to today’s Hyun-Jin Ryu and Shin-Soo Choo, both of whom landed multi-million dollar contracts with their respective ball clubs.

“We knew Chan Ho would be a pioneer,” O’Malley said. “We clearly knew that others would follow. More than anything, I wanted the Dodger team to reflect the community here in Los Angeles. Having Fernando [Valenzuela] was important for the community from Mexico. Having Chan Ho for the Korean American community, Hideo [Nomo] for the Japanese American community. I wanted our players to reflect what Los Angeles was all about. And they all did. They all did it very well.”

After touring the exhibit, Park spoke to KoreAm about his years in the major leagues, his impact on the Korean community and “returning the favor” to the kids from South Korea who recently won the Little League World Series.

_MG_0067Chan Ho Park, his two daughters and JANM president and CEO Greg Kimura

This exhibit celebrates the contribution of former Dodgers who contributed to America’s civil rights movement. In your perspective, what is it about your career that puts you on the same list as the likes of Jackie Robinson?

Throughout my 17 years in the major leagues, I’ve experienced both happiness and difficulties. But now that I look back, I feel like I tend to remember the tough times more vividly. At that moment, when things were really tough, I was desperate to forget those moments, but now that everything is said and done, I’m thankful for all the challenges I faced. For me, overcoming those obstacles allowed me to become who I am today. That’s why the fans appreciate me, and it’s what allows me to have the kind of relationship I have with them. If I can pick one thing that I’ve done really well in my playing career, it’s the fact that I never quit.

How does it feel to visit this exhibit to see your career being celebrated alongside some of these all-time greats?

I’m really grateful. When I began playing, I never imagined that I’d accomplish any of this. But now I understand that for people who appreciate baseball, coming to an exhibit like this is a way of celebrating history and reconnecting with moments when baseball left a positive impact on their lives. I’m so thankful that I played even a small role in making that happen. Now, the one thing that I do want to see is the Korean American community in particular being more proactive with hosting a similar event, so that the younger generation within our own community can have easier access to learning the messages that baseball conveys.

Why do you say that it’s important for the Korean American community to host these events?

There was a similar exhibit in Korea last year. It was about how baseball, my career in the major leagues in particular, played a role in giving the Korean people hope amid the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. It wasn’t about celebrating winning or losing. It was about how baseball gave hope to people who were struggling at that particular time. At that exhibit in Korea, I was able to see firsthand how young people, many of whom weren’t even born or necessarily remember those times, were taught valuable lessons. I can no longer pitch on the mound. I’m too old! So I’m always so thankful when I see an exhibit like this that could help young people remember what I did, or what baseball did in the past. I just hope to see more of these in Koreatown now.

Speaking of young people, 11 to 13-year-old South Korean kids won the Little League World Series recently.

I had a chance to meet them during the tournament. It was surreal how kids are so different compared to my generation. Obviously, I’ve watched Hyun-Jin [Ryu, the current Dodger and Park's former teammate at the Hanwha Eagles and the Korean national team] pitch for the Dodgers and felt the same way. But after seeing our kids at the Little League World Series, I really feel like the younger generation changed a lot compared to us.

How exactly are kids today different?

You have to understand that these kids grow up watching the likes of Hyun-Jin and Shin-Soo [Choo of the Texas Rangers]. They grow up watching the major leagues and realize that it’s a realistic goal for them to play there themselves one day. When I was growing up, playing in the major leagues wasn’t even in my imagination! When Korea last won the Little League World Series in 1985, the kids then had no idea that playing in the major leagues was even possible. But for these kids now, they grow up in an environment where they can set the highest goals and they know that they can achieve their dreams. So it’s up to the adults now to help our kids realize those dreams. The Korean people these days are living in sadness because of all the things that have happened recently, and I’m just so proud that these young players have done something that our people could be proud of. The adults should return the favor now.

_MG_0089Chan Ho Park, with one of his daughters, shares a moment with Peter O’Malley.

What do you mean when you say that it’s now up to the adults?

I’m saying that we can’t just take the value of their win for granted. Now that they’ve come home after winning the World Series, people could easily just say, “Good job!” and move on. These kids have done something really special to make us happy when we felt like we’ve been down. So it’s up to us to create the kind of infrastructure for them so that as they grow, they continue to develop in an environment that helps them achieve their dreams. When we send our kids overseas for international tournaments, we shouldn’t just cheer for them and expect them to win and think that’s all we can do. It’s our responsibility to create meticulous plans to help them grow further and prosper.

So hopefully, we get to see more Hyun-Jin Ryus and Shin-Soo Choos in the future.

To me, Hyun-Jin is not just a successor of mine. He’s my child. I love him so much. But technically, I see him pitch in games in the major leagues and realize that he’s so much better than I was. He plays a higher quality baseball. I see him pitch and always tell myself, “Wow, Korean baseball has come so far.” Like I said, when Hyun-Jin first started watching the major leagues as a kid, that’s when I was pitching for the Dodgers. Today, the core group of professional baseball players in Korea grew up watching the major leagues. Kids who grow up watching baseball of the highest quality are different. And I’m just happy that I played a role in creating that kind of environment.

The “Dodgers: Brotherhood of the Game” exhibit began last March and will continue through Sept. 14 at JANM. For more information, visit http://www.janm.org/exhibits/dodgers/

Shin-Soo Choo

Shin-Soo Choo To Have Elbow Surgery, Will Miss Remainder of Season

by JAMES S. KIM

It’s been a tough year for Texas Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. After starting out red-hot for the first five weeks of the season, Choo joined several of his teammates struggling with the injury bug, strangling all the high hopes the team had for a playoff run this year as they’ve plummeted to the worst record in the major leagues.

Almost mercifully, Choo’s season is over, as he is scheduled to remove a bone spur from his left elbow within the next two weeks, the Rangers organization announced Monday. They had planned to shut him down in September, but they moved that up a week because Choo has come down with the flu.

The elbow surgery will take about two months to recover from, and the Rangers expect Choo to fully recover in time for next year’s spring training, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.

The elbow had bothered Choo on long throws and hard throws, even though he has spent time in the lineup as a designated hitter for much of the season so far. He has some injury history with the elbow–in September 2007, he underwent Tommy John surgery, but he bounced back quickly the following season.

The hope will be that the team will get healthy, and with maybe a few adjustments, be a playoff contender next year. That’s the reason that Choo chose the Rangers over the New York Yankees and turned down a seven-year, $140 million contract.

However, his first year with the team has been quite a struggle, to say the least. His slash line of hitting .242 with 58 runs scored, 13 home runs, 40 RBIs, a .340 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging percentage were his lowest since he began playing regularly in 2008.

Rangers manager Ron Washington still had encouraging words for Choo, suggesting that in some ways he had a strong first season with the team.

“With all the adversity, he didn’t shut it down,” Washington said. “He kept fighting. I admire the way he went about his business through all the adversity. It was tough, but he didn’t complain.”

Choo’s career has had its ups and downs–he’d be the first to tell you that. But his hard work, determination and resilience have led him to become one of the top players in the game.

You can read more about Choo and his road to baseball stardom in our upcoming issue. Subscribe here, or email us at info@iamkoream.com to buy an individual issue.

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SKorea

SKorea Wins Little League World Series Championship

by JAMES S. KIM

It’s called Little League, but if the 2014 Little League World Series tournament showed us anything, it’s that there’s nothing small about the heart, hard work and sportsmanship these kids bring to the ballpark.

With his team down 8-1 in the top of the sixth and final inning of the World Series championship game on Sunday, Illinois pitcher Trey Hondras nailed South Korea’s Dong Wan Sin in the helmet with a pitch. As Sin made his way over to first base, Hondras went over to apologize to the player, and the two competitors shook hands.

South Korea would go on to win the game 8-4 and capture the 2014 Little League World Series championship—their first since going back-to-back in 1985, but it was moments like this one that stood out during the tournament.

A day earlier, South Korea knocked out Japan, the reigning World Series champions, in dominant fashion, 12-3. After Japan won their third-place game against Nevada before Korea and Illinois took the field, many of the Japanese players stayed to cheer on Korea, donning blue shirts with the South Korean flag on them. You probably won’t ever see that outside of Little League.

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Sunday’s game wasn’t as much of a cakewalk for the South Koreans, but it was still more of the same: dominant pitching and a rock-steady offense. They led the game from the start, plating their first run on an RBI double by Jae Yeong Hwang in the first inning. After Korea scored another in the top of the third, Illinois finally got themselves on the board with a run in the bottom of the inning off of pitcher Jae Yeong Hwang.

In the top of the sixth, South Korea doubled their 4-1 advantage by scoring four runs, capped by Hae Chan Choi’s home run. They would need every single one of them, because as it goes in Little League, there is no such thing as too much offense–until the mercy rule takes over.

Illinois made things interesting in the final inning, knocking two straight base hits off of Choi, who had taken over pitching duties. With runners on second and third with one out, Darion Radcliff singled in both, and a hit and two passed balls allowed another to score.

Choi struck out Brandon Green, and after walking the next batter, he finally got clean-up hitter Ed Howard to ground into a force out to secure the win and championship.

Team

After the celebrations were said and done, the players from both teams lined up to shake hands. And to start off the line was an awkward, yet probably one of the more heartwarming handshakes you will ever see.

Bat flips, home runs and all that stuff aside, that’s pretty cool.

Images via ESPN

Champs

SKorea Wins Little League World Series Int’l Championship Over Japan

by JAMES S. KIM

Twice is just as nice for South Korea, as they defeated Japan 12-3 to secure the Little League World Series International Championship in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. That makes it consecutive wins against Japan during the 2014 tournament, and South Korea now advances to the World Series Championship game on Sunday.

The two best international teams were set to play a highly-anticipated rematch, but South Korea made things look easy against the reigning Little League World Series champs.

After both teams went scoreless through the first two innings, the South Korean offense roared to life in the third, plating seven runs. Hae Chan Choi knocked in a two-run double, and Dong Wan Sin cleared the bases with a hit that ricocheted off pitcher Joichiro Fujimatsu and went into left field.

Choi and Yoo Jun Ha both homered in the top of the sixth to only add insult to injury, putting the game well out of reach.

Despite losing to South Korea on Thursday, 4-2, Japan kept themselves in the tournament following that loss by beating up on Mexico, 12-1, in an elimination game on Friday. However, that offense was nonexistent on Saturday as the South Korean pitchers once again nullified the Japanese offense. Jae Yeong Hwang capped a perfect two innings to begin the game, and Japan was kept to just one hit through four innings.

South Korea is now 10-0 all-time in the Little League World Series, winning the championship in their only two appearances in 1984 and 1985. They will face Illinois, who beat Nevada 7-5 later in the day. The game will take place tomorrow at 12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET on ABC.

Photo via ESPN

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SKorea Beats Japan, Advances to Int’l Championship in Little League World Series

by JAMES S. KIM

The South Korean Little League World Series team is headed to the International Championship game after edging out a very strong Japanese team 4-2 Wednesday in .

The matchup of the top two international teams did not disappoint. World Series defending champion Japan came in with a dominant pitching staff, while South Korea came in boasting one of the top offenses in the tournament thus far.

Scoreless into the third inning, pitcher and first baseman Choi Hae-chan helped his own cause with a two-run home run to right center field to give Korea the lead. Japan responded immediately by tying the game with two runs of their own in the bottom of the third, one off a sacrifice fly by Shingo Tomita and another off a wild pitch.

Both teams remained scoreless until the top of the sixth (the final inning per Little League rules), when Hwang Jae-yeong lifted a solo homer to score the game-winning run off of Suguru Kanamori. Sin Dong-wan added an insurance run with a double to center field.

In the bottom sixth, Hwang Jae Young struck out the first two Japanese batters before giving up a single. The next batter, Kanamori, flied out to center field to end the game.

South Korea now holds a 9-0 Little League World Series record, while Japan broke its 12-game win streak.

Japan isn’t completely out of it as it will play Mexico tomorrow for a chance to get back into the International Championship game on Saturday, where South Korea awaits.

At the time of publication, the top two U.S. teams are set to slug it out in an highly-anticipated game, featuring a potent offense in Nevada and the superstar Mo’ne Davis-led Pennsylvania team.

The winner of the International Championship will face the winner of the U.S. Championship game, also Saturday, for the World Series Championship game on Sunday.

Meanwhile, you can watch a couple of South Korea’s spectacular bat flips from the tournament. Mind you, they’re both on flyouts.

Photo courtesy of Korea Little Baseball Association

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In First Start, Darwin Barney Plays Key Role In Dodgers’ Win

Darwin Barney, Los Angeles Dodgers’ mid-season acquisition this summer, got off to a strong start this week, playing a vital role in his new team’s 4-2 win Wednesday over the Atlanta Braves.

In the infielder’s first start for the Dodgers, Barney gave the team an early lead by looping a single to right field to score Justin Turner in the second inning. With the Dodgers clinging on to a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning, Barney hit a playable ground ball to shortstop Emilio Bonifacio, but took advantage of the latter’s error and reached second base. After Adrian Gonzalez advanced him to third, Barney’s all-hustle base-running gave the Dodgers a much-needed insurance run after he scored on a wild pitch by David Hale.

“I’ve been watching [the Dodgers] from the other side for a long time, and we’re very versatile on offense,” Barney, who was traded from the Chicago Cubs two weeks ago, told MLB.com. “A lot of guys can hit the long ball obviously, and when a guy is pretty effective [like Braves' pitcher Mike Minor], we got our hits and got the job done.”

A former Gold Glover at second base, Barney also showcased his ability to cover much ground and helped the Dodgers with a few big defensive plays.

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The Kansas City Royals’ Biggest Fan Is From South Korea

by STEVE HAN

When the Kansas City Royals invited their superfan Sung Woo Lee from South Korea, neither the team nor the man himself expected that his 10-day stay would be this special.

The Royals went on an eight-game winning streak since the day Lee landed in Kansas City, a streak which allowed them to overtake the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central. Lee, seeing his favorite team in person for the first time, tossed the ceremonial first pitch at Monday night’s game and has become something of a celebrity amid the outpouring of Midwestern hospitality.

Lee, who has never visited the U.S. before the Royals flew him in last week, traces back his fandom to the early 1990s, when he caught baseball highlights on Korean TV, which aired CNN’s sports news segments every day. Lee told MLB.com the Royals’ “beautiful K” on their hats “caught my eye,” and from then on would lend his unconditional support of the perennially underachieving franchise, which hasn’t made the playoffs since 1985 in the early 1990s after watching baseball.

Thanks to the Internet, Lee became an active member of the Royals’ online community and met local fans in Kansas City. Those locals, who’ve kept in touch with Lee for years, are the ones who launched a campaign to fly him in from Korea with the hashtag #SungWooToKC on Twitter.

“The dude is just diehard, and he never has a bad word to say about us, even when we were at our lowest of our low, and I was just really happy and honored to meet him,” said Royals pitcher Danny Duffy.

Set to return to Korea tomorrow, Lee has been embraced by the Royals community, which welcomed him with customized gifts and barbecue tailgate feasts in his honor.

“That’s just a credit to this whole community, this whole town,” Lee said, according to the Kansas City Star. “It’s just been this giant hug from this town. It’s been viral and insane.”