Archive | August, 2010

Interview – Chicago Cubs Scout Aaron Tassano

Several weeks ago, I went up to the Seoul area to check out one of the bigger high school baseball tournaments in the country.  The Phoenix Flag Tournament is held every year in Suwon, South Korea.  Teams from all over the country come to play and it made for some exciting baseball.

While I was there I ran into the scout for the Chicago Cubs, Aaron Tassano.  I chatted him up between games when he wasn’t hard at work, and later he was kind enough to answer some questions.  Aaron has written for many publications across the internet, and his own site the East Windup Chronicle.  Even though his busy scouting schedule does not allow him to post on his blog as much anymore, there is still some great information here on international baseball.  Without further delay…..

What originally brought you to Korea?

I was working on a master’s degree in Educational Training through a University back home. Part of the program included taking some classes abroad.

Before you started scouting, what was your baseball background?

I played up into junior college. After I graduated I worked at a newspaper for five years and did some sports writing, but mostly entertainment. But I’ve come to find that knowing how to write and communicate well is very useful in scouting. Mostly though I come to baseball via simulation games, which I played endlessly as a child, and then fantasy baseball, which I got more into once I moved to Korea. Sounds kind of goofy, but that sort of thing provides a good baseball background…even for scouting.

I have read teams send a lot of their scouts to a yearly scout school in Arizona.  Did you have any formal training before starting work?

I’ve gone to the states a couple times, which has been part of my training, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time with my bosses. It’s a constant learning process, so I think I’ll still be training for years down the road.

Do you have any recommendations for people like myself who like to see new stadiums on places that need not be missed?

Hm. Well, the stadium in Incheon is fantastic. I’ve heard it compared to a very good minor league stadium in the states, but I think that sells it short. SK has built a culture around it’s stadium that’s only rivaled (and bettered) by that in Busan. They really know what they’re doing up in Incheon. I also like the stadium in Daejon for some reason. It’s kind of what I imagine some of the old pre-70s multi-purpose stadiums in MLB to be like. I’m talking something like Ebbets Field. Jeju has a couple old stadiums that are almost deserted, but are still used for high school and college winter camps. Like most things in Jeju, once Koreans got passports in the late 80s, there became little reason to keep things up to date because the place is no longer the edge of the Earth. I was walking around Jeju once and came across an old croquet mega-complex. I’m sure families used to make an evening out of it. Now it’s like an abandoned warehouse, probably filled with rats and unused squid wrap sheets.

What is the off-season like for a scout? Or is there an off-season?

I’ve been doing this a short time, but off-season is kind of a drag. I get antsy and start looking forward to games in 40 degree weather in February. Outside of games I do a lot of report writing and film editing. Then there are phone calls…talking to agents, coaches and other scouts. But off-season in Korea is basically the week of Christmas and New Year’s.

Do you see scouts in Korea from leagues other than the MLB or KBO? Places like Japan, Taiwan, or Australia?

A lot of MLB teams send in scouts in varying numbers. A few teams have people here on the ground in Korea, a few have someone that lives in Taiwan that also covers Korea. A couple live in Japan. Some teams don’t send anyone to Korea. The KBO scouts are here every game, every tournament, every inning. Some of them are good guys, others I, um, don’t know very well.

Again I would like to thank Aaron for taking the time to answer my questions.

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Posted in MLB, KBO, Asia, Interviews1 Comment

Baseball Around the World

Interested in what goes on in baseball leagues around the world?  Then I have a site for you to check out.

Baseball de World

This site follows leagues from all over the world like Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, and much more.  They even follow what goes on in the United States.

Check it out and bookmark it because I know you will be back.  It’s an interesting site that provides insights to baseball around the world.

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Posted in MLB, KBO, Asia1 Comment

Interview – Foreigner Playing Ball in Korea – Brett VanHoose

Recently Brett VanHoose, an American living and teaching in Korea, sat down to answer some questions about playing baseball in Korea.  He plays in an adult baseball league here in Daegu.  I’d like to thank Brett for taking the time out if his busy schedule.  Here is what he had to say….

Tell us a little bit about your baseball background. Did you play in college? Did you ever aspire to play professionally?

I have played recreational baseball since I was five years old from Pee Wee to Pony League; played on several All-star teams during my Little League seasons in Delaware and Morrow County, Ohio – including a traveling team, and later I played four years varsity High School baseball and American Legion Baseball before moving on to college.  I played a spring seasons and a winter season with Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas and Mid-American Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas respectively. I finished my collegiate baseball career in Tampa, Florida with the University of Tampa when I was injured during spring training.

Did you play in adult leagues in the States before moving to Korea?

I played for the Muffins – a historical re-enactment base ball team based out of Columbus, Ohio. I volunteered with the Ohio Historical Society traveling to various locations throughout the state and other locations in and around the region of the country playing base ball games in the setting of the 1860’s.

Have you ever played in any other countries prior to coming to Korea?

I played competitive league softball in Bosnia-Herzegovina where the team I played traveled to various locations throughout the region engaging in multiple events.

How did you come to play with a team in Korea?

I saw a few adults playing in uniform on fields in and around Daegu and I inquired to my Hagwon owner about how to get in touch with them in order to see if they would let me play. She spoke to her nephew who knew of some players and I was able to coordinate a meeting – I met them one Sunday morning and they immediately invited me to play and since I have been asked to play on two other teams as well.

Baseball in Daegu

Tell us a little bit about the league. How many teams are there, and are they all from Daegu?

I can’t tell you much as the language barrier has made it difficult to follow, but if you like you can look at the websites I have provided below – you can see the number of leagues and teams per league. Amazingly enough there is more baseball going on in Daegu than most people know.

Are there any other foreigners playing in your league?

Yes, I have played with a Canadian pitcher last year and against several other Canadians; however, this season in the two leagues I am playing in I haven’t met any other foreigners.

What is the competition like throughout the league? Are there any players who have played at the college or professional level?

League competition as I have seen varies. There are a number of leagues with many skill levels. Yes, there are a number of players who have played higher level baseball and in some leagues hope to move up.

Are there any big differences in the play here in Korea compared to that back home in the States?

Yes, as in just about any athletic event Koreans may participate in – there are very few who focus on developing their skills to play at higher levels. Most sporting activities are for recreation only; however, I must say I have seen some outstanding ball players who have without a doubt put in some hard work to develop their skills.

I have seen you play some catcher and pitcher. How do you get over the language barrier while playing?

It is not easy, although as you may know – most Koreans can communicate substantially more affectively in English than most foreigners can in Korean. So, for the most part I have no problem – helps when teammates understand the game.

Is there a site where we can follow the standings or statistics for your league? (Korean site is okay)

This is my Saturday League (I play for SK Telecom)www.kmball.com and this is my Sunday League (I play for H-Fitness) www.tkabo.or.kr/default.asp

With your knowledge of the game and experience with teaching, have you ever thought of coaching baseball?

Yes, I have coached youth recreational baseball, but I would very much like to coach competitive high school baseball.

Baseball in Daegu

Thanks again to Brett for taking the time to answer some questions. Stay tuned for more interviews in the coming weeks.
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If you want to see more pictures of H Fitness, you can view them on Flickr here.

Posted in Interviews0 Comments

Interview – Matthew Dewoskin of True Stories of Korean Baseball

Matthew Dewoskin has become an authority on Korean baseball.  Along with building up a following on his blog, True Stories of Korean Baseball, Matthew writes for a Busan based magazine, Busan Haps. Matthew was kind enough to sit down and take a few minutes to answer some questions on being a foreign journalist in Korea.

You have built up a following with your blog on the KBO. Did you have a favorite team back in the States as well?

Absolutely. I’m a lunatic for the Chicago White Sox team.

Do you still follow the MLB or that team?

I never stopped.

How long have you been in Korea?

About four years.

I have seen other people use your blog as a reference for anyone who wants to follow the KBO. What got you interested in writing about the KBO?

I was frustrated by the lack of KBO info in English, so I decided to start doing it myself. I also wanted to learn the Korean words for baseball terms and blogging helped with that.

Do you get most of your information for your daily updates from Korean websites?

About 95% of it.

How would you compare the KBO to MLB?

The biggest difference is the facilities. Korea hasn’t really put any money into upgrading their facilities since the 80’s and they need it desperately. As far as the on field product, the KBO is about AAA or AA level, but I think a lot of the top talent would do well in the US. We might get a chance to see Hanhwa ace Ryu Hyeon-jin make the jump next year. I think he’d make a great reliever. I’m not sure if he could start every fifth day for 162 games.

You also write for a magazine on the city of Busan, Busan Haps. How did that start?

The editor of the site made me a “Godfather Offer.” He basically said, “Write for me and you could talk to Jerry Royster every week.” Jerry doesn’t always answer his phone and I don’t always have time to chase him, but it’s cool having some access.

When you get the chance to go to games, how receptive are players to a foreign journalist?

I’ve only had a press pass once and I spent more time with Jerry than I did with the players. Lotte DH Hong Seong-heun spoke English and I was able to beg Lee Dae-ho into taking a picture with me. The Giants staff wasn’t very receptive to having non-Koreans hanging around. We weren’t allowed in the press box.

What about the coaches?

Honestly, I didn’t really meet any of them.

Are you able to interview any Korean players?

Funny you ask. There should be an interview with Lee Dae-ho going up at the Busan Haps site sometime soon.

I won’t ask you about any “bad guys” in the league, but I am always interested in hearing who is a really nice guy. Have you come across any in the KBO during your time here?

The few players I’ve met have been absolute gentlemen. I’ve never had a bad experience with a player. Except CJ Nitkowski. All the guys on Lotte were awesome and the few Samsung Lions I’ve met have been great. Samsung manager Sun Dong-yeol is one of the nicest guys on the planet.

How many games do you make it to in a given year?

As many as possible. I’ve only made it to about fifteen this year. Last year I made it to over 30.

Do you have a favorite stadium in the KBO?

Incheon’s Munhak Stadium. It’s by far the best ballpark in the KBO. Beautiful facility. They really made an effort to make Munhak different than the other cookie cutter stadiums in the KBO. The foliage in the outfield. The hydraulic boat for the cheerleaders. The modern upper deck. The wide concourses. It’s like a real stadium.

Thoughts on who might win this year in the KBO?

SK has to be the odds on favorite, but I’m excited to see the Lions in the Korean Series. I think Samsung’s pitching matches up well with SK and the opportunistic Samsung offense should provide enough runs to keep Samsung in the series.

Have you had the opportunity to travel and see baseball overseas anywhere?

I’ve been to a few games in Japan.

Where is the one place you would like to see a baseball game that you havne’t?

I’d really like to see a game in Cuba.

I’d like to thank Matthew for taking the time to answer some questions.  If you are interested in learning more about the KBO, head on over to his website, True Stories of Korean Baseball.  There is a lot of good information there.  Also check out his articles for Busan Haps where he covers the Lotte Giants (perhaps the most popular team in Korea).

Posted in KBO, Interviews1 Comment

Book Review – Batting Stance Guy: A Love Letter to Baseball

After seeing Gar Ryness, aka the Batting Stance Guy, on MLB network prior to the start of the 2009 season, I was hooked.  Not only could him imitate the stars of today, but he could imitate the stars of the 70s and 80s that I grew up watching.  But one thing stands out more than any other.  The simple fact that he had down pat a batting stance of a little known catcher from the Houston Astros, Tony Eusebio.  When I saw that, I knew I was watching something special.

Earlier this year Gar came out with his book, Batting Stance Guy: A Love Letter to Baseball. I knew I had to pick up a copy and I was glad to find a bookstore in Seoul that could get me just that.   Gar is great on YouTube where he became a hit, but his writing style, along with friend Caleb Dewart, really struck me as unique, funny, and it brought back so many memories of my childhood.

The book takes you through the 50 best stances of all time where none other than Red Sox slugger Kevin Youkilis stands alone at the top.  The book is chalked full of names you will know and remember like Cal Ripken Jr., Rickey Henderson, Pete Rose, Albert Pujols, and Joe Morgan.  But the genius in this book doesn’t lie with the stars, it lies with all the others like Tony Eusebio, John Wokenfuss (the only player I was not familiar with), Phil Plantier, and Mickey Tettleton.

I was constantly reminded of being in my own backyard as a kid with my own wiffle ball bat.  I would go through lineup after lineup, but one thing remained the same.  Dale Murphy would always have the winning hit in my games.

This is a great book, and a must read for any baseball fan.  It reminds us again that baseball is a game and should be fun.  The stories he tells from childhood to young adulthood are quite humorous.  I mean how many people break into a minor league stadium to reenact the 1992 NLCS game 7 after a wedding rehearsal?

Do yourself a favor.  Pick up this book and take a relaxing stroll down memory lane.  You’ll laugh and remember what it is to be a kid again enjoying the great game.  Don’t forget to head over and check out the Batting Stance Guy’s website as well.  There are a lot of great videos to watch.  From the classic moments, to the best of lineups (an all-temper team anyone?), to past and present great stances, Gar Ryness will have you laughing and wanting to pick up your own wiffle ball bat to practice with.

You can pick up Batting Stance Guy: A Love Letter to Baseball anywhere books are sold.

Posted in Reviews, Books1 Comment

Stupid Human Tricks Baseball Style

If you are a fan of David Letterman like myself, you will recall watching countless episodes of stupid human tricks.  Well today I stumbled across one from the world of baseball.  The is a man who hits 10 balls in 10 seconds off of a pitching machine.  I am not sure what is more fascinating though.  The fact that he hits all 10, or that he doesn’t fall down after spinning around so many times.  Anyway, here it is.  I hope you enjoy it……at least a little.

If you like this video, please check out some others we have posted here.

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Posted in Videos0 Comments

Open Letter to Chipper Jones

Dear Mr. Jones,

I have been a fan of the Atlanta Braves and you since I can remember.  I grew up watching the Braves in the 80’s when winning seemed as distant as landing on Mars,  but I persevered and I hope you can too.  I was the laughing stock in school for wearing my Braves hat, but that all changed in 1991.  All of a sudden there were Atlanta fans everywhere, and  I will be a fan until the good Lord takes me from this Earth.  I live and die every October with the rise and fall of the Braves, but I have to say it has been a wonderful ride.

I am writing to tell you why I, as a huge Braves fan, hopes you can also persevere and make it back for one more season. I understand me waiting year to year for a World Series is much easier than you recovering from knee surgery to make it back to the grueling schedule of 162 games.  But please hear me out as to why not only I want you to come back next year, but why Braves fans needs you back for one more year.

The Braves has seen some great players come along through its history.  The great Hammerin’ Hank, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, Dale Murphy, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and one Larry Wayne Jones.  But the Braves have never had one of their great players go out as a Brave on a high note.  Hank Aaron went on to play with Milwaukee again (but this time as a Brewer) at the end of his career. Eddie Mathews ended his career in Detroit after playing for Houston.  Dale Murphy was traded to Philadelphia and finished his playing days in Colorado.  Greg Maddux finished up his days with the Dodgers and Padres.  John Smoltz played with Boston and St. Louis, and while Tom Glavine officially finished his career with Atlanta, it wasn’t the farewell tour everyone had hoped it would be since it was marred with injuries.

The Braves have not had one of their own Hall of Fame worthy stars end a season healthy as an Atlanta Brave.  I can remember everyone being excited about this Jones kid the Braves drafted in 1990.  I recall the excitement of getting your rookie baseball cards and thinking one day this will be the guy to take us to the World Series.  Little did I know it would be so soon.  I have so many fond memories of you playing with Atlanta; and I, like millions of others, don’t want my last memory of you playing being of you hurting your knee.

The one thing I have learned over the years watching you play is that there is no quit in you.  I was glad to see you said you were coming back to spring training next year.  One of my favorite memories from baseball was watching Cal Ripken Jr. play his last game in Texas at the Ballpark in Arlington in 2001.  It was nice to see such a great player make a farewell tour of stadiums.  He was able to dictate his own terms of leaving the game, and like Cal did everything, he did it with grace and a flair unlike any other.  I just hope the fans all around the country get that same memory with you.

Sincerely,

Eric – A Braves fan in South Korea via Texas – The Baseball Journeyman

Posted in MLB1 Comment

PBS to Air Ken Burns Baseball The 10th Inning

PBS will air the newest addition to the Baseball documentary by Ken Burns in September.  Check out the link below for a video about the newest installment to the series.

The two-part, four-hour documentary will air September 28-29 on PBS.  It chronicles the stories from the 1990s to present day.

PBS – Ken Burns Baseball – 10th Inning

Posted in MLB2 Comments

Crazy Bat Tricks

Last year while playing for the Long Beach Armada (a now defunct team in the Golden Baseball League), Josh Womack became a YouTube phenomenon.  The former 2nd round pick of the Seattle Mariners showed off some serious bat tricks.  Womack never made it to the majors having a cup of coffee in AAA with Tacoma, but he is Jedi when it comes to handling the bat.   The original video of Josh doing his big trick has had nearly 4 million views already.  This video goes a little further with some additional tricks, and its quite amazing.  This may be old for some, but its always nice to see some great tricks.  Enjoy.

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Posted in MiLB0 Comments

Houston Fan Dubbed “The Bailer”

This is one of the funniest videos I have seen in some time. A fan at a Houston Astros game thinks about catching a foul ball.  Then at the last second he changes his mind and bails.  See for yourself what happens next.

The Bailer Video

And to top it off – a nice play by new Atlanta Brave Rick Ankiel in CF.

Ankiel Dive

Coming up later this week.  An interview with KBO blogger and Busan Haps magazine writer Matthew Dewoskin.

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Posted in MLB0 Comments

New Era (eFashion Solutions)

Quote of the Month

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

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