Friday, May 8, 2009
True Stories of Korean Baseball - a Korean baseball blog
The next blog I'm going to cover is True Stories of Korean Baseball, a site run by an ex-pat American living respectively in Daegu, South Korea, and covering the Korean Baseball Organizaiton.
Or as Matt says, "A foreign perspective on baseball in Korea", or "The poor, confused foreigner reporting on the KBO".
Matt doesn't do much in the way of self-promotion. I don't know what he's trying to prove by that. He'll give the rest of us a bad name.
During the season, Matt does mostly game recaps, but in-depth. He knows the teams, players, managers, and fans well, and can comment on them all equally well. He will also so posts on other topics during the season, and covers the off-season like it is covered in the states. Anything baseball related of interest.
Good daily recaps that don't take a lot of time to read, with good analysis. And he knows his subject matter. Extremley well.
He's been at it for a year and a half. I come to the site every day and hope he can keep going for many more.
Here's the interview below:
1. Tell us a little about yourself?
I'm 29 years old and I was born in Chicago, IL. I've lived in Daegu, SK for about 3 years. I was a film and video production major at Columbia College in Chicago. I lived in LA for a year while I tried to get a screenplay made. I got close, but I ran out of money and came home to finish my degree. After that I worked in the admissions department at a university in Chicago. My first year in Korea I worked at an English academy. Now I work a public school job at an elementary school in Daegu.
2. Why are you in Korea?
Originally I was bored and unhappy in Chicago. My job was essentially a dead end and I wanted to change. I also wanted to learn a language and do some travelling before responsibility set in. That was 3 years ago. Now, I love my job and I love my girlfriend. I really can't imagine being anywhere else right now.
3. What was your interest in Korean baseball before?
Nonexistent. I was barely aware of the KBO before I moved here.
4. What is your best memory of Korean baseball?
Last year's playoffs. My beloved Samsung Lions upset the Lotte Giants in the first round of the playoffs. I couldn't believe they won a game against Lotte, let alone the series.
5. Which team is your favorite,and why?
The Samsung Lions. I live in Daegu and they're the local team. I've attended enough games and followed the team closely enough to get myself attached. I've got two different jerseys in my closet. The 1985 throwback and the current road. To me, jersey ownership is the official sign of fandom. Once I did that, I became a Samsung fan.
6. Who is your favorite player, and why?
The Samsung Lions' closer, Oh Seung-hwan. His nickname is "Iron Mask." He never smiles, unless Samsung wins a championship. His icy, cool demeanor was a huge selling point. I don't think he has the stuff to make in the MLB, but he's been a lights out reliever since 2005. He also has a really cool cheer. Before he starts an inning, the ladies of the cheering section scream out "Sarang haeyo!"(I love you) and the men yell "Oh Seung-hwan!" immeadiately after. It sounds awesome every time I hear it. As of yesterday he recorded his 150th KBO save. He's the youngest pitcher in KBO history to reach that landmark.
7. What is your favorite Korean ball park, and why?
I've never been to Incheon's stadium and I've heard that's the best. Of the stadiums I've been to I would have to say Busan's Sajik Stadium. The rabid fans create an awesome atmosphere. It's THE place to watch baseball in Korea. It's the perfect size. Big enough to sell out, but small enough so there isn't a bad seat in the place. Unless you're stuck behind the scoreboard in center field. Those seats are brutal.
8. What is your all-time Korean team?
My knowledge of the history is a little lacking because English resources don't exist and I haven't taken the time to research info in Korean, but I'll give this a whirl.
Catcher is easy. Lee Man-soo. He was the Babe Ruth of Korea. He hit 252 homers during his career. He was the league MVP in 1983 and won the triple crown in 1984.
At first base is Lee Seung-yeop. The former Samsung Lion and current Yomiuri Giant holds the Asian single season record for homeruns with 55.
At 2nd base, give me current SK Wyvern Jeong Geun-woo. I think he'll finish his career as one of the best 2nd basemen in the history of the KBO.
At third, I'd like WBC star Lee Beom-ho on my team. A little pop, a little speed, a good clutch hitter and a solid glove.
At short I'll go with Samsung Lions/Hyundai Unicorns vet Park Jin-man. He's been on every incarnation of the national team for the last 10 years except this year's WBC team. He missed the WBC because of a shoulder injury. In his prime years, few were better with the glove.
In left, I'll put Doosan's Kim Hyeon-soo. I think he has a chance to be the next great KBO hitter. He won a batting title last season and he was only 20 years old, but he only hit 9 homers. I think his power will develop as he gets older.
In center, I'll put SK's Park Jae-hong. He's the first KBO player to reach 250 stolen bases and 250 homers.
In right I'll put Hanwha Eagles great Song Ji-man. Early in his career(late 90's) he was a power/speed guy. Usually over 20 homer and 20SBs. After 2000 he turned into more of a middle of the order masher.
My DH is current Samsung Lion and future career HR leader, Yang Joon-hyeok. Yang tied the KBO career mark for homers at 340. His next is the record breaker.
My closer is Oh Seung-hwan, but if I had to pick a starting pitcher I'd go with Oh's current manager, Sun Dong-yeol. He finished his career with a 1.20 ERA, 146-40 career record and 132 career saves. He also racked up 1698 K's in his 11 year KBO career. He finished his professional career in Japan's NPB with Chunichi. His career ERA is still a record.
9. Will you continue to follow Korean baseball when you go back to the states?
Who says I'm leaving?
editor's note (that would be me): good point. no reason I should assume any ex-pat is leaving and going back to the states. I'm not either.
10. Why did you start the blog?
Because I was frustrated over the lack of day-to-day info about the KBO in English. If the local newspapers were too lazy to do it, I'd just do it myself. I also wanted to study Korean by reading box scores and game recaps. I've thought about doing translation, but I find the work tedious.
11. What do you hope to accomplish with it?
It gives me a chance to write everyday about something I'm passionate about. As long as it continues to be fun I will continue to do it.
12. What American team do you support?
I have been a militant Chicago White Sox fan since 1992. Before '92 I just liked baseball. Frank Thomas, the black uni's and the new ballpark figured prominently in my choice. I can't imagine supporting another team. I'm also a casual Redbirds and Brewers fan.
13. What is your first baseball memory?
Watching the ball roll between Leon Durham's legs in 1984.
14. What is your favorite baseball memory?
2005 World Series. I was in the stands for game two with my dad. We watched Scott Podsednik hit a walk off homer in the freezing rain. I'll never forget the look on my dad's face when the ball went out and I'm sure he'll never forget the look on mine. The A.J. Pierzynski game in the ALCS is a close 2nd. That was a wild, wild scene.
15. What do you hope to take away from your experience of Korean baseball?
The same thing I look for in western baseball. Enjoyment. I'm happiest at the ballpark. It's fun to go to games. It's fun to write about games. The KBO gives me that opportunity.
16. What is the general feeling of baseball players in Korea getting military exemptions?
Happiness. Playing ball is better than going into the military.
17. Any knowledge of baseball in North Korea?
As far as I know baseball is not played in North Korea. It doesn't fit in to the Juche Idea of working together. Soccer is the sport of choice. Baseball is viewed as American, capitalist and individualistic.
18. Ever been to the DMZ, and what did you think, if so?
I have. It's an interesting place.
19. How do Koreans really feel about baseball?
I think they enjoy the game, but it's not taken quite as seriously is in the states. If you ask any of my 5th or 6th graders to name a player on the Samsung Lions, they probably couldn't. The focus is on the national team. Koreans get really excited when the national team does well. Games against Japan are especially intense.
20. What else would you like to say, on any baseball subject?
Is this the part where I get to confess my mancrush on Carlos Quentin? Actually, I'm going to outline my plan for fixing the KBO. Welcome to bizarro world. I, Matt Dewoskin have just been named commissioner of the KBO. 1st things first. All names on the jerseys will be in English. First two initials followed by family names for Korean guys and last names only for foreign players. Speaking of foreign players, in addition to the 2 foreigners on each roster, I'm allowing teams to add two additional roster spots for Asian ballplayers. The goal here is to build awareness and cooperation with neighboring countries while improving the roster depth in the KBO. Next up is the national anthem. It will be sung at every game. No more recordings. Actual live singers before the first pitch. There are a lot of churches in Korea and they all have choirs. You could probably recruit enough from churches to fill 66 home dates for each team. Also, the all-star game participants will be the previous seasons champions vs. an all star team with the starters voted in by the fans. The all-star weekend will also be changed. The homerun derby will be foreigners vs. Koreans. We're also going to try a celebrity softball game. Softball isn't widely known, but I think it would be a hit. A few former players, a few cute pop stars and a few wacky comedians tossing a round a Chicago-style 16-inch softball. I'm excited. Also, no more ties. We finish games in the KBO or we don't play them. We're also going to actually market ourselves in an attempt to actually make a profit. I've never seen an organization try as hard as the KBO to ignore its fans. Better facilities and better marketing are needed. Most children couldn't name a single player on a roster of a KBO team. That needs to change if the KBO is going to survive. I hope these are enough.
Matt, many thanks for taking the time to do this. I like some of the ideas for when you are commissioner of the KBO. Just no kimchi in the stands please.
Matt can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org