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May 27th 2007

Mr. Baseball?

Aug 20th - Baseball Update, now that the rainy season Chris is in full swing batting .685 for the teacher's team swatting 5 home runs to date. Check out the pictures posted on the picture page.

When we decided to come to Korea, we brought along our ball gloves in case we were bored and would be interested in playing catch to pass the time. Chris did not expect that bringing his glove would open up a whole world of baseball.

Last fall we heard that our academy had a baseball team. After playing church league slo-pitch and fastball, a school team sounded like a fun way to pass the time and get to know some of the other folks who work here. But, as often happens in Korea, my expectations were quickly exceeded.

While I still have no intentions of sporting the Tom Selleck 'stache I can relate to playing baseball as one of the only foreigners.

The school actually operates 2 teams, both play hardball, both play in ball parks with 375' fences, and as I have quickly found out both teams are quite competitive.

The first team that I play on is made up of the teachers from our academy. The teacher's team plays in a league in Suwon - the town beside Anyang, the team is made up of players some good some bad, all looking forward to having a good time - which mostly means winning!

The other team is a little better.

One thing you have to understand about Koreans is they love to win in everything they do. The owner of our Academy is no exception. I compare him to the warden in the film "the longest yard". In that film the Warden of a prison is a football fanatic, he hires former college and pro football players to play in a league, and get their practice against the inmates. Like this character, our Wan Jeong Nim (president) is a baseball nut! And in the same way as the Warden he has managed to hire a whole slew of former pro or semi-pro ballers into administrative positions at several of the Youngjae Academies.

Chris sporting his new uniform.

These administrators make up a team that competes in several leagues in Seoul - the leagues are also made up of former players with pitchers who pitch in excess of 85mph. The team also participates in high profile tournaments around the country throughout the summer.

After practicing for a couple weeks, I have been placed as an active member on both teams. After my uniform came in last month I was good to go. Obviously I have the greater potential for success playing on the teacher's team but it is really great to push myself playing with the 'A' team.

Chris in action during a teacher's team game

I have been playing in the outfield for the 'A' team and first base (kind of weird since I have never played in the infield before) for the teacher's team - for the purposes of intimidation as I am told. It is quite fun being the token foreigner. Along with Paul, one of our other teachers, who hails from St. Thomas. We are paraded around to the other team. We have learned about 10 important 'baseball' phrases with the most important being "moon jae op-soe" which means "no problem". This is a catch all phrase which basically means you will do whatever the coaches ask.

Coach: "Ke-ri-seuh, go catch-ee at first-euh base-euh"
tr. Chris go play 1st base.

Chris: "moon jae op-so"

Coach: "Ke-ri-seuh, you batting sam bong... ok??"
tr. Chris, you're hitting 3rd.

Chris: "moon jae op-so"

Coach: "Ke-ri-seuh, anta ju sey oh."
tr. Chris, get a hit please.

Chris: "moon jae op-so"

you get the picture...

So far I have been to 6 games and have had a chance to start in 4 so far . The team has been happy with my fielding while my batting has been slowly coming along, which is code for no homeruns yet only singles and doubles.

One of the ball parks we've played at with the 'A' team: Dongdaemun Stadium

Likely the best perk to being part of the team is eating out after every practice and game. After practice each week the team goes out together to a restaurant nearby the diamond. It has been a great opportunity to get even more adventerous trying Korean cuisine. We usually go out for a quick meal of some variation of "gook" or "jjigae" Korean soups - a lunchtime staple. After games the meals are a little more extravagant, barbequed beef, even wild boar was once on the menu. Eating out all the time can be expensive, so the greatest part is that the school picks up the tab every time! "Assa!" that's Korean for awesome.

Some of our team out for a meal after our latest game

All in all, I'll be sure to keep the progress reports coming on our teams as the seasons progress.

It's shaping up to be a great summer, it will be pretty busy playing all that baseball but as we say in Korea...

"moon jae op-so!"

Chris with Joseph - one of the other teachers and our
academy's Won Jang Nim (president/owner/baseball coach)