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Interview: Robert Breisacher from Baseball Dreamin

Today we talk to Robert J. Breisacher from Baseball Dreamin. Robert is going on a trip to all 30 MLB stadiums this summer, but before he leaves he took some time to talk to us.

How long have you had this dream to see every MLB stadium?
I’m not exactly sure when I got this idea in my head.  I think just being so far away from home during the summer made me miss watching games.  I love being able to catch a game anytime of the day, any day of the summer.

What did your friends/family think when you told them what you were doing?
My family is very proud of me for chasing a dream like this.  They do think its rather ambitious and they are concerned about the financial toll it will take on my wallet.  Other then that they are just happy to see me go after something like this.

I see you have your schedule planned out, how long did it take you to make?
The schedule was not easy to plan out.  I can’t tell you how many times I made it through and came to the conclusion that that particular schedule wasn’t going to work out.  I had schedules for different times of the season starting in different areas of the country.  Ultimelty I decided that I wanted to start the trip as soon as I could.  Patience is a virtue that I could work on and I think the excitment of the season starting and me not on the road would drive me crazy.

Will you see only 1 game at each stadium or is there time for an extra game here and there?
Right now I have only planned on one game in each park with the exception of Comerica Park which is where I will be starting and ending my trip.  Any additonal games that I see will be a decision I make on the fly.  There are a few gaps in my schedule where I will be in a paticular city for an extended period of time such as NY, LA, and Chicago.  I’m pretty sure I will end up seeing more then the scheduled games in those cities.

Where will you stay on your journey? Hotels, camp sites, couchsurfing?
I will be doing a little bit of each of the following options.  I would like to keep the costs as low as possible seeing as gas prices have the potential to get a bit out of hand this summer.  I want to find unique and interesting local places to stay whenever possible.  The ballpark chaser communtiy is a tight knit group.  Since finding websites such as ballparkchasers.com several fellow chasers have offered to let me crash at their places.  Also being a former member of the military I have friends all over the country and they have offered to let me stay with them.

Have you contacted the teams to let them know what you are doing? If so, how receptive have they been to providing assistance?
Yes, While I was still in Afghanistan I sent emails and formal mail to every single one of the teams in Major League Baseball.  At this point I have heard back from about half of the teams and most have offered to extend complimentary tickets and or parking passes.  A few teams have gone above and beyond.  The Cleveland Indians gave me four tickets for the April 9th game and are allowing me to sit in the “Social Media Suite” while I am attending a game there.  The Indians staff has been absolutely amazing to me from the very first time I contacted them.  The New York Mets have a program where the welcome home a veteran at every home game of the season.  While I am attending the game there I will recieve four tickets in the front row right behind the Mets dugout.  They will introduce me at the end of the third inning and show pictures I provided them on their jumbo screen.  Interesting enough the only non American team in Major League Baseball, The Toronto Blue Jays, offered me four tickets and free blue jays caps when I come visit them.  I am going to try to send out one last ditch email to the teams I have not heard from.  Today I recieved a voucher for two tickets to a St. Louis Cardnials game, I had previously heard nothing from the Cardnials so I’m wondering if other teams will be doing the same.

What stadium or team are you most excited to see and why?
The stadium I am most excited to see is Fenway Park.  I will be there for opening day during their 100th season at Fenway.  I am so excited to be apart of this history and see where so many legends have thrown around a ball.  I was also excited about seeing Wrigley Field.  So much so I couldn’t contain my excitement and went out to Chicago this past weekend and got a tour of the park, It was everything I thought it would be and so much more.  I can’t wait to a game there.  I’m also excited to see Comerica Park because its my home town field and is always a pleasure to see a game there.

You plan on seeing other things along the way besides MLB stadiums. What are you most excited about seeing or doing along the way that might not have anything to do with baseball?
I’m excited about seeing the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in Cleveland, Niagra Falls on the way to Toronto, and I’m hoping to be able to fit a stop by Las Vegas into my budget.

Are you going to try and stay on or off the interstate highways for most of your journey?
I will be sticking to the highways most of my trip unless I hear about something I have to see off the beaten path.  Some of my games are kind of pushing it when it comes to time so I will be looking for my fastest way between those parks.

What is the best advice someone has given you about your trip so far?
The best advice I have recieved was from one of my best friends, Melissa Craley, gave me the idea for my blog.  I was home on leave from Afghanistan and met up with her for dinner.  I told her about my trip and she told me I should document every aspect of it.  I thought that was a wonderful idea and clearly I have ran with it.  Melissa has been an incredible supporter of me on this project and will be attending a few games with me.  I would like to thank Melissa for coming up with awesome ideas and helping me out every step of the way!  I honestly could not of done this with out her.

I’d like to thank Robert for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. I am looking forward to following along with his journey as he travels across the US. You can follow along as well on his blog Baseball Dreamin, on Face Book, or on Twitter @BaseballDreamin.

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Interview: Birmingham Barons Clubhouse Manager Jeff Perro

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Jeff Perro who is the clubhouse manager for the Birmingham Barons. I have been following Jeff on Twitter (@MiLBClubbie) and through his blog, Inside the Clubhouse, for awhile now. He always has a lot of interesting stories to tell, so if you haven’t done so already, head on over and check them out. You can also find him on FaceBook.
He was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions. So without further ado…..

You are currently the Clubhouse Manager for the Birmingham Barons. Where else have you worked and for how long?

I was a bat boy for the Mobile BaySharks in 1995. I worked in merchandising and ticket sales for the Mobile BayBears from 1996 to 1999. I was the clubhouse and equipment manager for the Augusta GreenJackets in 2008. I worked in this position for the Barons in 2001, returned in 2009, and I’ve been here since.

How did you wind up working in Minor League Baseball?

My first job in baseball was as bat boy for the Mobile BaySharks of the independent Texas-Louisiana League in 1995. It’s funny, as minor on the minor league food chain as that team was, I still run into people from there. Former MLBer Turner Ward is the manager for the Mobile BayBears this year, his younger brother, Lance played on that team. Turner and I reminisced about the BaySharks when his team was in town last week, had some good laughs. Andy Skeels was a catcher for the BaySharks, he was my manager 13 years later with the Augusta GreenJackets in ’08. BayShark coaches Jamie Nelson and Neil Allen both work for the Tampa Bay Rays nowadays, I run into them from time to time.

That team disolved when it was announced that the BayBears were coming to town. A few of the front office people went to work for the BayBears, I talked to them, and I became one of the first handful of employees for the team. Before the ballpark, Hank Aaron Stadium, was built, the team had their offices and gift shop in the Bel Air Mall. I worked in the gift shop and sold tickets, eventually moving into the new stadium, while going to college. I dropped out of college, moved from Mobile to Anniston, AL in 1999, and briefly left baseball.

I had the itch to get back into the game in 2001. Without a degree, there wasn’t a lot I could do besides little part time jobs such as sell tickets, usher, and things like that. I had heard of clubhouse managers, but didn’t really know much about them until I did a little research. It seemed like a fun hands-on job that didn’t require a degree. I sent an email to approximately  60 minor league teams asking what a clubhouse manager does and how to get into it. When I got my first response, I read the message before I paid attention to who it was from. It basically said “We need a clubhouse manager now. When can you interview?” Probablilty said that it was probably an email from some far off team in Tacoma, or Virginia, or somewhere, but I was surprised to see it was from the Birmingham Barons. The team only an hour away!

I interviewed a few days later and was handed a set of keys. My prior experience in baseball opened that door for me. I left the Barons after one season because my offseason job in the restaurant business kept throwing opportunities and money at me. I was out of baseball for seven years and I still regret that decision to leave. The Baseball Winter Meetings were in Nashville, where I was living by that time, in 2007. I saw that as my shot to get back in the game. I interviewed for four clubhouse manager positions and was offered three of them. I decided to take the job with the San Francisco Giants  with their low-A affiliate, the Augusta GreenJackets.  The Barons found out that I was back in baseball and they tracked me down to see if I wanted my old job back after the 2008 season. I initially said no beacuse, the GreenJackets and Giants are class organizations and they treated me very well. I only changed my mind because I had lived and visited Birmingham often over the years and had friends and family there. I wanted to settle down and make a home somewhere. I chose Birmingham and I’ve been here since the 2009 season.My entire baseball career stems from my initial job as a lowly bat boy for a lowly indy ball team.

What are your responsibilities as the Clubhouse Manager?

I have so many responsibilies that I often forget a few when people ask me what they are. I’m resposible for packing team equipment for road trips and loading and unload the buses. I purchase and prepare the pregame spreads and snacks. I’m responsible for working with different restaurants to cater the postgame spreads. Timing and setting up the postgame spreads is a huge stress factor for me. I inventory and order bats, balls, rosin, pine tar, and the like. I’m the guy who does the laundry, folds towels, vacuums and cleans up the clubhouse. I stock the shower soap, shampoo, and other toiletries. I’m the guy who puts the water, Powerade, and cups on the bench. I keep the trainer stocked with ice and ice towels. I rub up the game balls for the umpires. I make sure we have the proper supply and rotation of batting practice balls, batting cage balls, pitcher’s bullpen balls, and fielding work balls. Um……

What do you do in the off-season?

The offseason is brutal. It’s hard to find a decent job that pays decent money that won’t mind you leaving after five months. I imagine the players have similar problems. The last two offseasons I’ve been stuck working two crummy jobs to get by. If I don’t find something steady this offseason, I may end up having to leave baseball. I don’t even want to think about it. It’s a balance of being able to do things that make you happy, but I also have financial responsibilities, as an adult, to take care of.

Most people think anyone who works for a team gets to watch games all day long although that isn’t the case. What is an average day like when the team is in town?

If things fall into place, I may get to watch about three innings of each game. For a 7pm game, my day starts around 10am. I run and run to take care of my above clubhouse managerly duties. I take a quick lunch break around 11:30, but I don’t really get to sit down too often until about 5pm. I get that little break from the time the team comes in from batting practice unti just before the game. I can usually spend some time in the dugout around the 2nd or 3rd innings and I always catch the end of the game. It takes me 5-6 hours after the game to get everything done for the night, so I’m done typically around 3am. Back at it at 10am the next day.

What about when the team is on the road?

When the team bus first pulls out to the next city, I usually sit down on the couch in my semi-messy clubhouse for an hour or two and just chill, maybe take a nap. After 5-10 days of baseball games and constantly having to have things done by certain times for 16+ hour work days, it’s hard to get off the couch when you don’t have those instant deadlines for a few days. I’ll take that first day to detail clean the clubhouse. There’s usually some home pants that have busted holey butts or knees or busted zippers that need to be taken to the seamstress. I take those and pick them up later in the week. Sometimes I get a few days away, but usually there’s something keeping me at the stadium. New players may be coming to town or old ones leaving. A plumber or electrician may be coming to work on something in the clubhouse. I had to be here during this past road trip because a new washer was being delivered. I do my shopping for the next homestand while the guys are away. Also, the South Eastern Conference baseball tournament is played at our ballpark every May, I’m here for that. Sometimes things do work out where I can get an actual break, though. Last summer, while the team was on a 10 day roadtrip, I took my family to Myrtle Beach. We were planning on staying three nights, but the opportunity arose and we stayed a fourth night.

What are your career goals within Minor League Baseball? Do you hope to land in the Majors like the players?

The Big Leagues aren’t my ultimate goal. I’m not going to lie, I’d take a job in the Show and I’d probably stick around forever and love it. The facilities, budget, staffs, and money is insane in MLB. I wouldn’t complain one bit if somebody wanted to hire me. Minor League baseball is my ultimate passion, though. It has been since I was young. My career goal is to be a clubhouse manager at a spring training facility or to be a minor league equipment coordinator for some team. At a spring training facility, the work is year round. There’s spring training, rookie leagues, instructional leagues, mini camps, and fantasy camps. I could work in baseball in a minor league atmosphere, year round, with no brutal offseason.

Nobody wants to name names of the jerks we deal with, but who are some of the nicer people you have run into in the game?

Of course, I’d love to name the jerks, but I never could. I’m always hesistant to name the nice guys, though, for fear of leaving somebody else. I’d hate for a player whom I love to read my “Nice Guy” list and not see their name, I’d feel like a jerk. I’d also hate to leave somebody off, have a fan read it, not see their favorite players name, then think maybe their idol is a jerk. I’ll tell you a couple recent stories about some nice guys, though.
Former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy was with the Barons on a rehab assignment recently. One of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, his family’s great too. I got to hang around the guy for three days. After he’d pitch his innings for the day, he’d come in the clubhouse, take care of whatever treament he had to, then just chit-chat. We talked about life in the Big Leagues, favorite and least favorite ballparks, clubbies, and everything else. Real nice guy and a great teammate.
Another good guys is Marlins’ minor league pitcher Jeff Allison. Allison was a first round pick in 2003 and has gone through some highly publicized off-field issues. I only take care of the home team with the Barons, but I wondered over the the visiting clubhouse last season to talk to our visiting clubhouse manager. He was having a conversation with Jeff Allison. The three of us just had a good talk about life and baseball. He struck me as a real good character. Fast forward to last week, the Jacksonville Suns stopped by Pratt City, AL on their way from Montgomery to Huntsville to volunteer at a Red Cross disaster relief center, following the April 27th tornadoes. I was already there doing some work when the team arrived. A few of the Suns remembered me from last season and gravitated toward me. Allison and I spent a few hours walking around the devestated area and working in the rain and mud together. He was genuinely concerned about the citizens in the area and wanted to do what he could to help. I’m a raving fan of Jeff Allison, I have no problem telling people, even though he’s with a different organization.

Do you keep up with anyone who has come through and moved onto the Majors?

A few players. Facebook is a great tool for the baseball community. You can check in with your former teammates, send them a message here and there, but it’s not as obtrusive as a phone call. Baseball people are busy people. It’s hard to have an actual conversation sometimes. I do enjoy keeping in touch with former players, though, big leaguers are not. Some of my best friends from baseball never made it out of AA and are out of baseball or in independent leagues now.

Jeff and the Barons recently did a lot in the north Alabama area to help with the devastation after the tornadoes that hit the area. He did a couple really nice write ups on his blog that you can read about how they helped out. Seeing things like this always brings a smile to my face. I live in South Korea, but I have a lot of family in the north Alabama area. Luckily everyone in my family was okay, but so many families lost their homes and/or worse. So I would like to say a big Thank You to Jeff and the Barons organization for helping out in a time of need. You can read his posts about helping out by clicking on the links below.

“How Can We Help?”

Day Two in Pratt City, Alabama

Thanks again to Jeff for taking time out of his busy schedule. Be sure to check him out on Twitter @MiLBClubbie, at his blog Inside the Clubhouse, and on FaceBook.

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Interview: UWF Argos Pitcher Philip Ebert

Recently I was able to have a chat with Philip Ebert, a pitcher with the #1 ranked West Florida Argonauts. Philip was an outfielder his first 3 years in school (1 was a red-shirt) and had now converted over to the pitching staff. Philip has been writing a popular blog throughout the season over at CBLineup.com and can be found tweeting about his time in college at @PhillyBert36.

I’d like to thank Philip for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions.

You were an outfielder the past two seasons. Why the switch to the mound this year?

-I actually have been an outfield at UWF for the past 3 seasons.  I was red-shirted my freshmen year.  After a year of a consistent slump all year at the plate, I knew that I needed to do something different. I made the decision to go to Coach Jeffcoat and talk to him about the idea of being a sidearm pitcher.  He was completely honest with me, and I knew what he was gonna say before he even said it… He told me realistically I wasn’t going to play for the next two years unless there was some type of injury.  We had a grad-assistant last year who was a senior when I was a freshmen, David Pedro, and he was a sidearm pitcher while at UWF.  I went to him and asked if he would teach me the basics and help me learn to pitch.  The main reason for the switch was that I wanted to help contribute to the team more on the field than being a cheerleader for two more years.  If it didn’t work out, I could hold my head up high knowing I tried everything I could.

Did you pitch any in high school?

-I actually never had pitched before last year… and I started pitching around the last month of the season.

Did you get a bigger rush in your first inning on the hill, or your first at bat in college?

-Definitely first inning on the hill!!  It was against Columbus State, and we were winning 24-12 or something and coach told me in the 8th to go get loose..  It was just great having all of my teammates that I endlessly support everyday to give back the same support to me.  My first at-bat I was a lot more nervous… On the mound I feel a lot more calm and feel like I can compete better than at the plate.  I will say though, one of the good things I did at the plate was a game winning hit that helped us make the conference tournament, and that was a great feeling.  Its two separate situations, but I like the control of being a pitcher and working on repeating something over and over and knowing I’m trying to throw a certain pitch and being able to execute it.

You are playing with the #1 team in the nation. What has it been like to be the one with the target on your backs this season with the #1 ranking?

-This is the 5th week we’ve been #1, and since we made it to the top the bulls-eye has been on us… We’ve gotten every teams best game, and none of them have come easy!  We know how it is, because we’ve played a #1 team before… Its just a different feeling being able to knock off the team that noticed as the BEST in the country.  People are trying to get their name on the map every game they play us, and it has forced us to be more competitive and keep our intensity up.

You have some guys on your team having some pretty special seasons both at the plate and on the mound. What has it been like seeing this on a daily basis?

-This team is very very close, and its always an interesting day when we all get together.  For me personally, being around a pitching staff with as much experience we have, and the ability we have, its been very helpful.  There are still things about pitching that are new to me and it helps having guys that have been out there doing it consistently to help.  From an offensive perspective, Greg Pron is having one of the most unbelievable year I have seen.  He’s very humble and a funny guy that brings 4 years of experience, and when he says something, people listen.  Practices are always competitive, because with the amount of depth we have, someone is always nipping at the starters heels.

You are writing a pretty popular blog over at cblineup.com. How did that start, and how has it been this season writing?

-When the website was previously PingBaseball I would always read the weekly blog about the DII week preview.  It was also one of the main ranking sources.  I’ve always been a good writer so I emailed College Baseball Lineup and told them I was interested in blogging for them.  I told them we had a good team with a lot of potential, and I wanted to help get the name West Florida Argonauts out to a national audience.  The writing has been fun… I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from parents and other supporters.  I always try to write each entry in a way so it would almost seem like I was talking to the reader face to face.  Its not meant to be a baseball weekly report, but just of the everyday life that a DII baseball player lives and especially coming from the eyes of a guy who doesn’t start and is working to find any way onto the field.

I loved your Senior Week video where some players insisted they didn’t speak English. Have your teammates given you any grief, or tried to influence you in any way about what you write?

-The videos have been fun to make, I usually bring out my Flip Camera once a week.. It was just something else that was going to be funny that I could add to the blog and YouTube to increase our exposure.  No one really influences me about what to write, but I do get some grief if I make a mistake during practice.. usually its something like “you should blog about that error” because of the weekly pitching updates I give in the blogs.

What are your plans for next season? Will you stay on the hill or will you move back to the field?

-I am a full time pitcher now for UWF… I gave up the bat when I went to coach last year!  I’ve gotten 2 innings this year, threw strikes, and I have all the confidence in the world right now.  I’m working hard everyday to find more consistency, but I’m LOVING pitching!!  I’m going to San Francisco to play summer ball where I intend to eat up a lot of innings and come back in the fall ready to compete!  I want to be the guy that the team wants out there to get a big out when we need it!

What are your plans for after graduation?

-I’m going to be graduating with a Dual Major in Elementary Education and Special Education.  Ideally, I would like to teach 4th or 5th grade.  I know I’m destined to coach baseball… Where?? I’m not sure.. I have so many baseball connections throughout the country that if I was offered a graduate position, I would probably take it and get my masters degree.  Realistically, I’m going to worry about finding a good teaching position, and coach high school.  Don’t be surprised if you see me coaching in the College World Series though… It’s been my dream to be a college coach at a big school.

I’d really like to thank Philip for taking the time to answer some questions for me. Currently the UWF Argos are getting ready for the NCAA Div II Regionals. As a former resident of the Pensacola area, and the son of a UWF Alum, I wish them well. I’ll be following them to see how they do from Korea, and you can to at GoArgos.com. And don’t forget to follow his blog at CBLineup.com.

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Interview: Minnesota Twins Scout Cary Broder

I am interested in all aspects of the baseball world. One that brings more interest than most is the world of scouting. After meeting the Chicago Cubs scout for Korea, Aaron Tassano, I was introduced to another scout living and working in Taiwan. Cary Broder is the scout for the Minnesota Twins scouting in Asia. Cary took the time to answer some questions for me about scouting. Here is that interview:

Before you started scouting, what was your baseball background?

Just loving the game and being passionate about it, taking in every game I could.  I was into Strat-o-Matic, roto,  reading what I could get my hands on, memorizing stats, baseball cards, all that stuff. Watching games in the dome as a kid with half empty stands and then seeing the Twins evolve and win the series in ’87 and ’91 was a big influence on me.  I used to watch Cubs games on WGN after school when the Braves and Cubs were the only teams on cable the 80’s.  So the game has been a part of my every day life in some form.  Later on, Aaron Tassano (a close friend of mine who scouts for the Cubs) and I co-founded East Windup Chronicle, which opened up some doors for us as well.

What originally brought you to Taiwan?

A combination of things.  I met my wife in the states (she’s Taiwanese) and when she returned to Taiwan I wanted to be with her.  Plus I got a master’s degree in Asian politics and economics and spoke Chinese and Japanese, so it made sense to relocate here.  I figured it would be the most sensible place to try to break into baseball given my background.  I turned out to be right!  Or lucky.  Plus, Asia is an exciting place to live in itself.

Did you do any formal training in the States prior to working in Asia?

I built up the base of qualifications I needed by learning the basics of Chinese and keeping my Japanese up to speed.  Language skills and an understanding of the culture here are just as important as being able to evaluate talent, so that put me in a position to get a job with a team.   Once I got to Taiwan, I found the people involved in MLB out here and made the connections I needed to get foot in the door.  I received solid training from a Pac Rim director based here, and once I was hired by the Twins I was fortunate enough to have an outstanding mentors in our International Director Howard Norsetter and Pac Rim scout David Kim.

Most people in the States have never seen or know little about professional baseball in Taiwan, how would you compare it to say the minors back home?

It’s tough to draw a straight line comparison.  Every player is unique and the range of talent is broad.  There are guys that could compete at higher levels or maybe even MLB in some capacity and there’s guys that wouldn’t get out of the low minors.  It depends on the career trajectory that brought them there in the first place.

The players that sign out of Taiwan, do they come mostly from high school, college, or the professional ranks?

Almost all of them come from High School and College.  Only one player has come out of the CPBL, Ni Fu Te who is in the Tigers system.

Do you cover any other areas of Asia other than Taiwan? If yes, how often do you travel to cover them?

I’m constantly traveling.  I cover Japan, and I’ve covered Australia and the US as well.  Next year there’s probably more territory on the horizon. There’s no set itinerary, it depends on what the organizational needs are from year to year and where the action is.

What is the off-season like for a scout?

What off season?

Are there many other American scouts roaming around Taiwan that you see often?

Not just Americans but scouts from all over the world–Canada, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Korea among others.  Some teams have guys on the ground here (some are locals, some are foreigners) but almost every team is checking in at some point.   But yeah, there’s a regular cast of characters you see around.  It kind of reminds me of Cheers or the bowling league scenes in the Big Lebowski at times.

I am not as familiar with Taiwan as I am Korea, is there a similar mandatory military requirement for every male, and does this effect the signing process?

Yes and yes.

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

Tien Mu stadium in Taipei has a beautiful view in the outfield, it looks like an old chinese brush and ink painting.  Some of my favorite fields are on the east coast of Taiwan–they’re remote and not the easiest to find but they have a kind of storybook quality to them.

I love high school baseball and watch many of the big tournaments in Korea. Are there any high school or college tournaments in Taiwan that would be worth watching for a die hard fan like myself?

There are tourneys year round here..  Baseball is a quasi-religion in Taiwan so there’s always something going on to watch.

I also love to follow minor league teams. Is there a minor league system in Taiwan?

There is.  There are only 4 pro teams though, so obviously its not like the U.S. minors.

Do you follow players progress back in the States that you signed? Have you signed anyone that might be fun for fans to follow the progress of?

Of course.  It’s not just a matter of following them passively–since it’s our evaluations that bring them to the states as scouts we are accountable for their performances on and off the field.   It’s in our interest to make sure they’re progressing.  Plus, in the evaluation and signing process you get to know the kids and the families very well and get to know the players as people, not just as players.

Signing a player is a team effort, it’s not just one scout acting on his own.  Last year the Twins signed a pitcher named Chen Hung-yi, a right hander out of high school.   He’s our second sign out of Taiwan, the first being outfielder Lin Wang-wei.  It might be my name on the sign, but the process involved several members of our international department.   And of course, the Twins recently added middle infielder Nishioka Tsuyoshi to the big club, and I’m proud to have been actively involved with that process. He was the MVP of the Japanese league last year and It’s exciting to be a part of bringing our first Japanese pro player to the Twins.

I’d like to thank Cary for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions. It’s always interesting to see a different side of the game from what you see on ESPN. And thanks to people like Cary, who take the time to talk to us about what they do, we can see some interesting angles to the game.

I’d also like to point out that the 1991 World Series was a big influence on my life, except my team was on the loosing end. When will I get over Lonnie Smith’s base running error?

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Interview: Passionate Baseball Fan from Korea – Kihoon Jung

The one thing I have learned watching baseball in Korea is the fans are passionate. It is a great thing to watch, especially coming from a place where most fans are fair weather fans only coming out when the team is winning. Thanks to things like Facebook and Twitter, I have been able to meet more and more baseball fans including some in Korea. So when I had the chance to sit down and ask some questions to a new friend of mine in Korea, I jumped at the chance. I really want to thank Kihoon for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions so we can better understand the baseball culture in Korea.

About Me.
My name is Kihoon and 29 years old. I am from Pusan and now working at Doosan magazine Digital Innovation team. I am sport mania. Baseball & Basketball are my all time favorites. I used to be a Intern basketball journalist during undergraduate years.

How long have you followed baseball in Korea?
Since Forever. I was born in Pusan, Mecca of baseball in Korea, in 1981 and Korean Professional league was launched the next year. My father used to play baseball at his company and loved to take me Giants games when I was young. I grew up playing and watching baseball games since I was a child. It has been over 20 years now. All of these led me be a huge fan of baseball.

What is your favorite team? Why?
Since I was born in Pusan, I was born to be a fan of my home town team Lotte Giants. It is a Korea professional team in Pusan, Korea and one of the most beloved teams in Korea as well. I used to be a Giants youth club member and have supported them for a long time. Trading is not common yet in Korean League and Many pro players are playing for their region team. It means that many of Giants players are from Pusan and that make fans give them more emotion. They are more like our friends and neighbors. Other teams are the same. I believe basically it stems from unique *KBO Draft system which changed since 2009 and Korean culture. Along with Samsung Lions in Daegu, Lotte Giants is one of only 2 teams that never changed their team name since Korean pro-league established. They won the championship 2 times in club history, 1984 and 1992. After a long Dark ages in early 2000, they are becoming champion-caliber team again by making 3 consecutive play-off appearance.(2008~2010). In addition to this, I am looking for my favorite MLB team. I have thought of Cubs, Red sox, Rangers, Indians. I heard that Cubs and Red sox are really popular team in US and known for devoted fans and tradition. I personally like the State of Texas.

Last year I supported Indians cause Shin-soo Choo is playing for them. These teams are in my boundary.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6djJhOOwTVA&feature=related (1992 Korean Series)

*KBO draft

With 1st pick, all teams have priority over their region until 2008 regardless of their rank in previous season. This system encouraged teams to support school teams in their region. But many experts pointed out that this system was advantageous to Kwangju, Seoul, Pusan teams since they have more top tier teams in their farm. Thus, Draft system has been changed from 2009. It is now overall draft like US. Draft system is still controversial issue.

What is your greatest memory of baseball?
If I have to pick a single game in particular, That would be 1999 KBO Play-off series game 7 between Lions and Giants. Giants dramatically got over 1-3 series to 3-3. The Game 7 was really close and heated until until the end of it. Giants broke the tie and won 6-5 in the 11th inning.  The game still remain as one of the most incredible match in Korean play-off history.

I uploaded a highlight clip here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JG3FZ0WTdXw

Every single game between huge east rivalry Korea and Japan is always fun to watch. 2009 WBC final, Semi final in 2008 Olympic, 2005 WBC tournament.

What team would you say has the most passionate fans in Korea?
The Giants have the most passionate fans in Korea. In fact, they are a little bit crazy sometimes. The Giants have the attendance record for a single season (1.38 million) in KBO and they gathered more than 1 million attendances 3 years in a row from 2008. For your information, the total attendance number of KBO in 2010 was 5.92million. Giants fan have lots of unique and dynamic cheering repertories and they are overwhelming than other team`s Among them, two songs, “Pusan Sea gull” , “Please come back to Pusan port” are famous and wearing orange plastic bag, shaking newspaper are also unique stuff. There ia a documentary movie about Lotte Giants (2009) named “I am a sea gull” I will send you if you want. Besides Giants, Kia tigers also have very enthusiastic fans. The 2 big market teams in Seoul, LG twins and Doosan Bears are popular team too.

Lotte

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3q9F3A2bTc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9321dLW69Y&feature=fvw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vscBjrpXhM&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pj9NVo-4iKc&feature=fvw

Do you follow baseball in Japan or the USA?
I think I am pretty much involved in MLB baseball. Since Chan-ho Park became the first Korean major league player, I have watched MLB games in Korea sometimes. Every one of Chan-ho`s games were available and also I was able to see Mariners games through NHK. I really like some dynamic Latin keystone players like Furcal, Reyes, Cora. They please my eyes. I check news articles and highlight clip on MLB web site on a daily base now. It is one of ways to study English for me. I enjoyed watching the World Series this season, too. Compared to USA, I have not experienced much about Japanese baseball. I only check Korean player`s news. There are 4 Korean players in NPB now. I have a good personal impression on Japanese baseball, though. I have traveled in Japan a few years ago and pleasantly surprised about their baseball facilities. Lots of baseball fields were readily available. I could easily see many people playing baseball. When I visited Osaka, neon signs of Hanshin tigers, one of the most popular Japanese Professional team were everywhere. I heard that Hanshin is also known as crazy fans. Their traditional home stadium is very famous. I hope to venture out there!

How do you feel the baseball in Korea compares to Japan or the USA?
Regarding Pro-league game, Korea baseball game is more intense than US from my perspective. It is probably because only 8 teams are competing and they know each other well. They tend to use detailed tactics based on detailed analysis data. Lots of substitutions as well. Trade is not that common in Korea. It is becoming more frequent but not as much as US yet. Given the fact that Trade is not that common and only 8 teams are in the league, it would be relatively easy to analyze other teams and use them in games.  On the other hand, US players play based on their superb athleticism and very aggressively. There are a lot of back and forth between Major league and Triple A. It makes it hard to analyze other teams, I think. It seems like they tend to cover their weak positions by trading rather than developing their farm youth players. I think Korea and Us have different view on their rookie level players. Korean team think  “I bought my boy. I will teach and develop you to explode your potential. Pay me back later” US team think “I paid for you. Now you have to show me”  US has deep resource pool thus they don`t need to wait and be patient. Since late 1990` some potential Korean player challenged to Major league but nearly all of them were failed. They had to manage everything by themselves and didn`t have many opportunities. If they had been more cared for or coached, some of them might have been successful. Japanese baseball is similar with Korean style. Their analysis tool is  much more sophisticated. Aside from Pro-league, US and Japan has more deep and extended baseball base than Korea. For example, Korea has only 60 or even less high school teams while Japan has nearly 4,000. US is needless to say.

What about the fans, how do they compare?
It seems to me that US people just enjoy game individually and more stay focus on the field. Maybe they respect other`s privacy and try not to disturb others. I think there may be more family unit fans and season members. Still, they are enthusiastic. They are more straight forward and even shout jeers at their players sometimes. That surprised me. On the other hand, Korean fans really like cheering together. Every team in Korea has cheer leader and they lead. If you want to just watch baseball game, it might be distracting sometimes but cheering is fascinating stuff that bring you to the stadium. I saw some people who barely know about baseball go to baseball game just for cheering and enjoying the atmosphere Its like NCAA basketball game. You stand up and shout, sing, dance, jeering whole throughout a game. Some people say that it is a party. One noticeable recent issue is that many young female fans are increasing. Japan is like to be about between them. They have both. As far as I know, If you want to be part of group cheering, you can go to outfield area. If you want to stay focus on game, you can do that in infield area. Whenever I watch Japanese baseball game, there were many old people and individual fans in infield seat and Group cheering was in outfield area.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6REyXnCGdJA Hanshin tigers cheering

I know you play on a team in Seoul.  How long have you played?
I play for 2 teams now. I moved up to Seoul for my job in 2008 and I started to play at my company team, Doozins. Some Staffs who love baseball gathered team members and established a team in 2007. Our Senior executives are really supportive. We play at single A level league near Seoul and reached the play-offs this season. It was the first time! I also found another team ‘Khazon’ (Hope in Hebrew) near my neighborhood and have played with them for 1 year now. We have a team practice every Saturday preparing for League in next season. Obviously we have improved a lot and now are about the Double A level in Korea Social league. we are becoming well-organized team and I love to see the proceeding.

What are your thoughts on playing with foreigners?
Actually, a few weeks ago, one foreigner guy from US expressed his interest in playing baseball in Korea and ask if there is a space for him. For me, it would be quite interesting having foreigners in my team. There may be some communication problem sometimes but it really doesn`t matter. You know, baseball is our language. No matter where they are from, they can be part of our team as long as they love baseball and sincerely participate in team activities. In the field, playing with foreigners would not make any huge difference. Beside, playing together, we can be also good friends and share some cultural background of Baseball sitting down over a bottle of beer. That’s something pretty cool I think.  I have a one female who is devoted fan of Braves. She did part-time work at Yankees farm before and told me many stories about her baseball experiences. She told me that Cheering culture is really impressive here and few teams have cheer leader in State. She also told me that she miss the big sound of Drum and Band in Turner field. I want to be there one day, too!!

Do you model your game after anyone?
Ichiro Suzuki of Seattle Mariners.  I think he is setting  such a good role model for non-power Asian players. He is like a Cartoon Character for me. He is really smart. I never have seen any bone head play from him. I believe it stems from good fundamentalism, his high level of intensity on a game and Professionalism.  We got some common things too. We are lead-off hitter, Left handed hitter, right handed pitcher, and skinny contact hitter. He is truly a multi-talented player. I mean he has everything. I have seen some people who underrate him by his look and nationality saying that he is selfish and a bad-ball hitter. However, I must say this, all the records he got so far simply demonstrates how great he is as a ball player. I wish we could have that kind of player in Korea, too.

How serious would you say people take baseball in Korea both playing and watching?
Among Pro sports, Baseball is the most popular sports in Korea. I think it is becoming national sports. Baseball is consistently loved regardless of social class and it is going to be the same way in the future. Especially, WBC boosted baseball in Korea again and people not only just watch baseball but also start to play. Many new social leagues have been established recently and it is close to impossible to secure baseball field for new teams. Joining league become really competitive. In my case, the entry fee was raised by nearly 30% this season but it was filled.

I want to thank Kihoon for taking time out of his busy schedule.  Not only did he come through with amazing information, but he did it in a 2nd language (quite well too). It’s fans like this that I want to meet across the world.  People who love the game, want to spread the greatness of the game, but also have a love and respect for the history of the game. Thanks again Kihoon, and I can’t wait till I get back to Korea so we can sit down and talk baseball face to face.

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Interview: Gar Ryness The Batting Stance Guy

When I was a kid I would stand for hours in the back yard going through all-star lineups.  I would be Will Clark and Dale Murphy, and I know I was horrible at it but it was fun.  Even in the batting cages now it is fun to be Julio Franco or Will Clark.  I know I have never been good at this, but I have found someone who is, Gar Ryness – The Batting Stance Guy.

He has formed sort of a cult following with his amazing ability to mimic hitters from past and present.  He has appeared on Letterman, ESPN, MLB Network, and has become a YouTube favorite. I did a review recently on his new book Batting Stance Guy: A Love Letter to Baseball.

Recently he was kind enough to sit down and share some of his insights with me.

I just finished your book, and I have to say I really enjoyed the stories. But I have one burning question.
What does your personal batting stance look like. Does it resemble anyone or have you lost any ‘natural’ stance at this point?

a) In high school I tried to be Ryne Sandberg. It was a pretty boring stance which might be why I didn’t get off the bench much. In the City Rec Softball playoffs I’ll try either David Justice or Will Clark from the left side. From the right side I’m Greg Gagne.

You have really blown up since I first saw you on the MLB network in 2009. What initially got you started?

a) Falling in love with baseball in 1980 is the real answer, but certainly my buddy and co-author Caleb asking to videotape me imitating Red Sox so he could show his friends in Boston was the start of the ride of the last few years.

Did you think it would ever get this big?

a) Once it got views on YouTube, I thought maybe season ticket holders, or geeks like me could like it, but I certainly never imagined players watching it in the clubhouse. No.
However, everyone with kids will know, it doesn’t matter how big anything gets it’s no big deal to them. They wish I imitated Hannah Montana or the Jonas Brothers, at least then they could meet someone cool.

In your book, Batting Stance Guy: A Love Letter to Baseball, you talk about Kevin Youkilis being the Michelangelo of stances. I know you get a lot of requests to do Youkilis, but do you have a favorite you like to perform?

a) If baseball stance requests were songs from a rock band, then Youkilis, Jeter, Manny, Rickey and Franco are all on the greatest hits album and they’re great to play because everyone can sing alone. But I’m the geek who secretly prefers the B-side songs of that obscure concept album that nobody bought. Guys like Moises Alou, Gary Matthews Sr (The Sarge), and Ben Oglivie are my favorites. There are also some spectacular Japanese stances that are fun to do. The world needs to know about Hitoshi Taneda.

I’ve seen a lot of videos where you perform for players, and every time they are beside themselves with laughter. Has there been any one particular reaction that stands out as either the best or strangest?

a) When visiting Minnesota, I was told my disclaimers about Joe Mauer – “He’ll enter the field right before stretching time. Don’t bother him, let him be, etc etc”. I had no plan to approach him. Jason Kubel, Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla were calling out names and laughing when Mauer and Morneau entered the dugout. The entire Twins team laughed pretty hard at my Delmon Young impression. The teams then went into the OF to stretch. I then have a thrilling conversation in the dugout with Bert Blyleven and his brother. Fifteen minutes later, tap on the shoulder, holy smokes, it’s Joe Mauer. He introduces himself, asks me my real name and we talk off camera for 5 minutes. That was pretty great.

Has anyone not been receptive to anything you have done?

a) Josh Beckett and I had an awkward interaction. It was spring training and he wanted me to do pitcher’s hitting stances. I joked with him about doing imitations of catchers like Mike Napoli hitting homers off of him in the post-season. *Crickets*. He told me to keep my day job. We talked for a while longer and he ended shaking my hand while saying, “You’re a funny dude.”

Thanks Josh Beckett.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your stories and insights on the different teams and ballparks that you have visited. When I visit a new stadium I feel like a kid at Christmas about to open his first present. What are your favorite places to watch a game?

a) Thanks for the kind words about the book. Glad you liked it. Wrigley and Fenway are great but AT&T Park in San Francisco is beautiful. San Diego might be the best for kids w/ tons to do, including building sand castles and playing Wiffleball just outside the park.

As you have gotten more popular over time, have you ever had any strange encounters from fans at games requesting players, hitting tips, or been given suggestions?

a) I’ve been at parties where semi-recognizable actors have asked for a Chipper Jones as their introduction to me. My favorite suggestions are from folks that introduce themselves saying they can do it waaaaay better, then they make me watch them and imitate George Brett right handed or Frank Thomas left handed and implore me that that’s how they bat. Awesome.

Last year you were on the David Letterman show. What was that experience like?

a) Surreal. Like walking on stage at a graduation where you just hope you don’t fall down. If there wasn’t footage, I’d honestly think it never happened. I was thankful he invited me and I can’t think of a Bucket List item that was higher. For real.

You said on Letterman you would like to get your bat into the Hall of Fame. Have you used the same bat since you started?

a) More or less yes. I bought a lot of 6 on ebay. They are all used, because we broke several filming various backyard or FoxSportsNet Bo Jackson bat breaking videos. Then one broke in half while in middle of SFGiants stretching circle. They requested Juan Uribe and he finishes his swing slamming the bat on the ground while quickly raising both hands over his head. Top of the bat broke off. So kids, be careful imitating Juan Uribe’s follow-thru.

You had a lot of great stories in the book. Getting onto the A’s field on an off day, the earthquake during the 1989 World Series. Included in those was watching the 1992 NLCS. You mention how Braves fans love that moment more than the 1995 team winning the World Series; and as a die-hard Braves fan myself, I have to say you are right. I still get goose bumps when listening to the call (although I prefer Skip Carey’s call). What memories stand out the most for you?

a) You won’t like this, but my favorite player of all-time is Kent Hrbek and when Gene Larkin singled home Dan Gladden off Alejandro Pena in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series I sprinted out of my freshman college dorm room to find someone from Minnesota to share the moment with. My roommate from Greece who was into pop art and motor sports didn’t share my excitement. The craziest moment I’ve seen live was Scott Podsednik’s walk-off HR off Brad Lidge to win Game 2 of the 2005 WorldSeries. Crowd went insane. Mostly because we were all frozen.

Lastly, as a huge baseball fan myself, I got to know where you get all of your great t-shirts from? The Rated Rookie, I Still Call It the Jake, and others are simply classics.

a) I agree. Company called No Mas. (NoMas-NYC.com) has a bevy of hip choices. Got them all from there.

I’d like to thank Gar again for taking the time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer some questions for me.  Pick up his book Batting Stance Guy: A Love Letter to Baseball and check out some of the funny stories he has to tell.  His book brought me back to my childhood in my own backyard.  He is just a baseball fan like the rest of us, and this book shows it.  So take a trip down memory lane to some of the crazier stances of the last 30 years.  It’s worth the ride.

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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

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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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

Do You Remember Your First Baseball Game?

I recently found out that a fellow English teacher here in South Korea had never been to a baseball game.  So I did what any baseball fan would do.  I drug him down to a game.  Thomas is from Scotland so he has never had a lot of exposure to the game.  After the game he was then kind enough to answer some questions for me regarding his experience.  So I will let Thomas take it from here.

1. What was your initial reaction when you arrived at the park and saw all the fans?

I was expecting there to be a lot of people at the park, and there were. What I wasn’t expecting was the atmosphere. The mood of the people there was so happy and carefree, like all inhibitions had been lifted and they could all be kids again. It’s something I’ve never really experienced in Korea before.

2. What did you think of the pace of the game?

Honestly, I thought the game was very slow. Having never been to a baseball game before, I don’t know if the pace was normal or slower than usual, but it seemed that there was a lot of milling around and wasted time between turns.

3. Was it an easy game to follow?

For the most part, yes. It took me a little while (and some explaining from yourself) for me to figure out the scoring system and how to read the scoreboard, but the actual play on the field was very easy to follow after that.

4. Korean fans are some of the more passionate, did you feel this was the case? (I should have specified passionate for baseball fans)

Having never been to another baseball game, I don’t can’t compare them to other baseball fans. However, I can say that the fans, compared to UK soccer and rugby fans (which is where my only other sport crowd experience lies) were very sedate, quiet and peaceful.

5. What did you think of the atmosphere inside the stadium?

The atmosphere inside the stadium was relaxed, fun and friendly. I thought it was awesome that there were kids playing ball all around the stadium, people of all ages chilling out on the seats, chanting and cheering. I liked that there fathers and sons together at the ga me, something that’s seen so rarely in this country.

6. What did you think of the ballpark?  (seats, food, etc..)

On this point, I was not happy. The stadium was small, the fans many and the seats few. There were hardly any facilities inside the stadium itself. I was expecting guys walking round with hot dogs and snacks, drinks all round and seats. Honestly, the reason I left the game early was that I was hungry and my legs were hurting. If I’d had a chair and some snacks, the experience would have been greatly enriched.

7. Would you like to see any changes to the game?

As a newcomer to baseball, I don’t really feel I have the right to suggest changes, but I do think it would be a little better with less time wasted between turns and innings.

8. would you return for another game?

Yes, most definitely.

9. Any additional thoughts/concerns?

I think it would be a good idea, if I go again, to bring some snacks and maybe a folding chair (like a little fishing stool), so I don’t have to stand. Alternatively, getting there early enough to grab a couple of seats would be a good idea.

I’d like to thank Thomas for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions.  I would also like to point out he was gracious enough to trade his brand new Samsung Lions hat he bought before the game, to a young boy.  In return Thomas got a hat made out o f paper.  It absolutely made that young boys day.

Do you remember your first baseball game?  If you do, I’d like to hear about what you thought.

Posted in KBO, Interviews2 Comments


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