Thursday, April 16, 2009

C.J. to the minors

C.J.Nitkowski, former major league pitcher, is now in South Korea, pitching for the SK Wyverns, the 2-time defending champ. While he was in the Korean Majors, he isn't any longer. After 1 inning, in his first start, he is now a minor league pitcher in Korea. Here's C.J.'s own take from his personal blog he's keeping:

So I faced 7 hitters and 6 of them I pitched well enough to get outs, 1 of them I really messed up. I’ll take 6 out of 7 any day especially knowing that HR to that type of hitter is something that won’t happen too often. It was just one of those innings. Despite the three runs I wasn’t fazed by what that happened. I was confident with the way I was throwing but I was taken out of the game.
The team is 2-2 right now, and has made some major shake-ups after just 4 games:

Also deactivated were our starting 1B, 2B and shortstop. The team is currently 2-2. This is an unique experience for an American.
I lived in Korea for a year, and while I'm not going to claim to be an expert on the Korean mentality, this doesn't surprise me. If you've ever paid attention to Japanese baseball, read any of the books, or watched any of the movies, then you shouldn't be either. The Asian way is much different than any other way, and making a scapegoat out of 4 players for a bad start is not usual, but isn't unusual either.

Here are the takes from a couple of other posts. They have a much better take on what is happening in Korean baseball.

East Windup Chronicle:

Well, I think there’s more to the story than what we’re getting. Korean employers, rightly or wrongly, have a funny way of testing the mettle of foreigners, attempting to quickly weed out weak-minded individuals. They don’t really care what you’re bringing into the situation, your value is exclusively what you’ve shown to them. My guess is that somewhere along the line SK saw something in Nitkowski’s makeup it didn’t like and is giving him a brief window to leave quietly. His value to the team will be much greater to the team later (if he’s able to contribute) than it is now.

In his most recent blog post (April 9) Nitkowski himself says he nearly quit upon hearing of the demotion, but only decided to stay when one of his teammates talked him off the ledge. If he wants to play in Korea he’ll tough it out, take his demotion seriously, and will make the most of his second chance, because he will positively get a second chance.
A lot more at the original post.True Stories of Korean Baseball:

CJ Nitkowski has been sent down to SK's minor league team. Joining CJ in the minors are 1st baseman Lee Ho-jun, 2nd baseman Jeong Geun-woo and third baseman Na Ju-hwan. All of these guys could be back in a few days. I get the impression that manager Kim Seong-geun was tired watching mediocre play for 4 games and wanted to send a message.
That's the major portion of it from Matt, as the rest is a daily roundup.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not picking on C.J. He's doing something I would love to do, and that's play baseball for a living, at any level, in any country. For a guy who has pitched at the highest level, to be sent down like that must be a slap to the ego, and you have to wonder if they are trying to get him to go home. To be fair, the homerun that was hit off of him was hit by a former major leaguer, who hit a few in the bigs.

I admire guys like C.J. who are willing to keep the dream alive, even in situations like this. Especially when he has to be away from his family, which makes it incredibly hard to do.

I hope he gets a chance at redemption in the Korean bigs again. No one should have to end career like that.

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