Wednesday, April 22, 2009

20 questions with Aaron Shinsano; of East Windup Chronicle

Aaron Shinsano has lived and worked in Korea for over four years. A native of the Bay Area and graduate of UC Davis his first writing job was with the Oakland Tribune. He’s written two unpublished manuscripts, the most recent a fictional novel about Koreans living in Korea and America. These days he does a little freelancing, does part-time scouting for the Chicago Cubs, co-edits this here web site, and co-hosts the occasional party with his wife Daisy Gatsby. As a boy he glued himself to the Cincinnati Reds, mostly because he was a fan of “The Baseball Bunch.” He hopes you like East Windup Chronicle and urges you to contact the site at

1. Tell us a little about yourself?

I'm Aaron Shinsano. I live in Ulsan, Korea and am one-half of East Windup Chronicle. I've had three serious girlfriends, but have been married to a Korean woman for three years. We have two cats, Kittya and Whitey. I like spicy food and have never seen the movie "Top Gun."

2. Why are you in Korea, or writing about Korean baseball?

I came here as part of a TESOL master's program, part of which included teaching English at a Korean institute. I met my wife within a couple weeks of arriving, and, well, that's been that. Writing about Korean baseball has been an outgrowth of starting East Windup Chronicle. Before we started the blog I had a passing interest, but since starting EWC, and of course beginning to scout baseball in Korea, I've become much more interested.

3. What was your interest in Korean baseball before?

My wife's mother used to run a ramen stand at the Lotte Giants stadium, so the first time I met my wife's mother (which is a big deal in Korea) it was there at the stadium. I didn't even see the game, but I worked all day boiling ramen and drinking beer. Some relatives of my wife came by and seemed genuinely horrified that she was dating a foreigner.

4. What is your best memory of Korean baseball?

Daniel Rios during the 2007 season was amazing. He was the first foreign pitcher to win 20 games in the KBO, and he positively dominant all season. Actually, that also had a lot to do with me getting interested in Korean baseball.

5. Which team is your favorite, and why?

I've always been a Lotte Giants fan, mostly because they're the home team where I live and the fans are amazing. Growing up I always tended to root for teams that weren't in my area, so I wanted to get it right with Lotte. But I have to say, this year I'm not feeling it as much. I really admire SK and what it's done. As I've said on EWC, it's without question the best run organization in Korean baseball, and they put a quality team on the field every night. No big name stars, no egos getting in the way, they just win.

6. Who is your favorite player, and why?

Probably Kim Kwang-hyun of SK, mostly because he's a tall lefty with great breaking stuff. That's kind of my ideal pitcher. A sky high release point, good control, lots of K's, a slider, two kinds of curveball, a nice changeup and a good heater. Overall dominance.

7. What is your favorite Korean ball park, and why?

In terms of comfort and modernity nothing beats SK's Munhak stadium in Incheon. In terms of fun Sajik Stadium in Busan is like a 30,000 person party. It's one of just a couple stadiums that allow you to bring whatever you want to eat and drink into the stadium and the Giants pack the place every home game. Plus tickets are about $7.

8. What is your all-time Korean team?

Well, again, I've only been watching Korean baseball four or five years, but I'll say

C: Kang Min-ho, Giants
1B: Lee Dae-ho, Giants
2B: Goh Yong-min, Doosan
SS: Lee Hak-ju, Cubs
3B: Kim Dong-ju, Doosan L
F: Kim Dong-yub, Cubs
CF: (tie) Ha Jae-hoon, Cubs and Lee Jeong-wook, Doosan
RF: Lee Jin-yeong, LG Twins

P: Daniel Rios, Doosan/Kim Kwang-hyun, SK sidenote

--- no DH. Awesome. For those who need them, there will be DH's in Hell!!!!!! ---
I stole the line from Bill at The Daily Something.

9. Will you continue to follow Korean baseball when you go back to the states?

Sure, but it won't be the same. Any given night there are at least two, and as many as four KBO games on TV. I love flipping around and watching bits of all four.

10. Why did you start the blog?

I'm a writer by trade and it's always been my passion. I worked as a journalist for five years after college and have written a couple of unpublished fiction novels. I had a blog for a couple years when I moved to Korea and really grew enjoy the format. Enjoyed writing mine and reading others. For a little while I started a second blog, but luckily Jackson asked me to help him start an Asian baseball blog. At first I was apprehensive, and hadn't written about sports since high school, but I kind of fell for EWC straightaway.

11. What do you hope to accomplish with it?

I've never had any big goals for EWC. It'd be nice if it made a bunch of money, but it doesn't and I don't think its theme is consistent enough for it to be picked up by Yahoo! or CBS or anyone like that. It had a lot to do with me getting into scouting, so I'd say it's already served its purpose. Plus all the ladies. Can't forget that.

12. What American team do you support?

Chicago Cubs. Once you start spending your real-life time working for a team there's no alternative. At least for me. I'd been a Reds fan my whole life, but I think it's a little like when you get out of a bad relationship and are with someone that makes you happy. From time to time you might consider what your life might have been with the former, but you don't lose any sleep over it.

13. What is your first baseball memory?

I played t-ball when I was five or six. I was a Reds fan at the time, and my team was the Reds, so that was special. I actually had to go to the bathroom so badly once while playing outfield that I just went in my pants.

14. What is your favorite baseball memory?

See #13. Just kidding. Just before I moved to Korea I went to a game at PacBell Park in San Francisco. It was a Thursday night. Two games before, Bonds had ended a game with a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 10th. The game I was at was the exact same situation…two days later. Score tied, bottom of the 10th. As Bonds walked to the plate they showed the home run from Tuesday’s game on the big screen. The crowd went crazy and as Bonds stepped in the batter’s box, and throughout the AB, the crowd was reacting as though he’d already hit another home run. They weren’t anticipating another home run, they were expecting it. Demanding it. He wasn’t pointing out to the right field fence like Babe Ruth did, but he didn't need to. The crowd did it for him. Then he hit it out. Into McCovey Cove.

15. What do you hope to take away from your experience of Korean baseball?

A well-paying job in Major League Baseball.

16. What is the general feeling of baseball players in Korea getting military exemptions?

Well, first and foremost they don't. It's something they all have to deal with before they're 28. The team that won the gold medal in Beijing was exempted, but it's not the kind of thing anyone complains about at all.

17. Any knowledge of baseball in North Korea?

I've thought about that a bunch of times. I'm sure, somewhere, at some point, it's been played. But being socialist and living under totalitarian rule they prefer sports that allow people to disappear into the woodwork and not be singled out for bad play. So they like soccer. Baseball may not work for them.

18. Ever been to the DMZ, and what did you think, if so?

Never been.

19. How do Koreans really feel about baseball?

I think there are things that really appeal to the culture, as is the case in Japan. I think it has to do with the intricacies, the strategy, the balance, the man versus man element within a team game. Baseball is a thinking person's game, and I think Koreans appreciate that. The popularity of baseball waned a little after the 2002 World Cup and soccer was the be all and end all. But now the national team stinks and people are realizing how dull soccer actually is. Not far from where I live a middle school built a very expensive state-of-the-art turf soccer field, and that school's team is actually the top rated in the country for that age group. But yesterday as I walked by I saw some kids playing baseball on it. It was a beautiful sight.

20. What else would you like to say, on any baseball subject?

I wish there were a good baseball-themed restaurant in Korea. A place to go have a beer, maybe eat hamburgers with buns that look like baseballs. Some Korean memorabilia on the walls. A bunch of TVs showing games. That'd be fun.

So he doesn't believe in the DH, he's never seen Top Gun, and he's a beer and burgers type guy. I forgive the fact that he works for the Cubs, even if Grandpa won't.

Thanks, Aaron, very much for taking the time to do this. Good luck with the blog.

Even if you don't go every day, please go check out the site and read a few posts. It will be worth the time.

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