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Archive for the ‘Shin Soo Choo’ Category

Episode 210 (Part 2)

Date 2010.12.08

This episode starts with the guru asking Choo about his famous baseball playing uncle Park Chung Tae.  Park is one of the more famous players out of Busan City and played for the Lotte Giants for 18 years before becoming a coach for its minor league team.  Choo really looked up to his uncle and began playing baseball because of him.  (He’d be my favorite uncle too if I could parade him around to my friends and make myself king of the neighborhood).

While Choo began playing ball in the 3rd grade, his father began training him since he was a baby.  Choo tells the guru that his father never held him and at 100 days old, his dad would make him hold his dad’s thumbs and hang from them as exercise.  I smell an urban legend worthy of snopes.  His dad is however legendary for his training methods.  They called his dad’s tactics worthy of Silmido, a movie based on the true story of a secret military group trained using brutal and inhuman methods to infiltrate the north.

In high school, Choo met his coach Cho Sun Oak.  This guy made his father look nice and forced Choo and his teammates to train day and night with tires on his back, making them run immediately after meals.  For three years, Choo never had a single day of rest.  All that training must have payed off because he lead his team to the 2000 national little league championships.

Choo really respected his coach and in November of 2010, Choo came back to Korea to pay respects to him.  At the columbarium, there were several videos of Choo crying and being comforted by his father.

He’s not around now but he really loved baseball…even if he had a bit of money, he’d use it to buy snacks for us and treated us all like our sons.  Calling him my second father isn’t enough to express how I feel about him.  And just as things were looking good for him, he ended up dying.   I felt like I didn’t do anything for him and I cried a lot because of that.  So I took my gold medal and went to give my respects to him.

In 2001, he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners.  One of the scouts was a close friend of his coach and even though other teams were scouting him, he ended up choosing the Mariners because they showed more interest in him.  It was a difficult transition for him.  He only knew the alphabet and had to have a translator.  It was frustrating for Choo since he wasn’t able to communicate with anyone, couldn’t understand anything on the tv  and didn’t have any friends.  At a fast food restaurant all he could ever order was a “Number 1.”  The cashier would ask him what he wanted to drink and he’d answer “Number 1.”  To go and to say?  “Number 1!”  Regardless of the question, the only thing Choo could say was “Number 1.”  After two years he decided to get rid of his translator and learn the language.

It was actually his minor league teammates that helped him improve his language skills.  When they would go to a restaurant, they would order for him but the next time around, he’d have to order for himself and the entire table.  Because of their help, his English improved dramatically.

During his time in the minors, the coaches wanted him to switch from a pitcher to a batter.  They saw that he had the makings of a 5-tool player (possessing the talent to hit for power and average, being an above average defender, and having above average arm strength and above average speed. thanks wiki) and wanted to take advantage of that.

Choo readily agreed and practiced days and night catching, fielding, and batting.  While he agreed to change positions there were many times he questioned his decision.  It was a struggle for him.  He was being paid $500/two weeks and had to room with 7-8 guys to make ends meet.  While he was in Seattle, he missed his girlfriend (now his wife) so much that he convinced her to fly to the states and live with him, two of his teammates, and their girlfriends in a two bedroom apartment.

Choo met his wife in 2003, while in Korea.  A buddy of his convinced him to come meet some girls but he wasn’t feeling the vibe and fell asleep on a couch.  When he woke up he said (not my words) “I thought an angel had passed by.”  From that moment he knew he had be with her and for the next two months the two were inseparable.  From dusk to dawn, the two spent every minute together which obviously did not sit well with the girl’s father.  Eventually Choo was called to his girlfriend’s home where Choo made a bold request to her father.

In a month I’m going to have to leave for America and I want to spend every minute I have left with her.  Would it be okay for her to stay with me?

Imagine being her dad.  Choo wasn’t even asking for her hand in marriage.  He just wanted her to stay with him for the remaining month he had left in Korea.  But her dad was cool about the whole thing and let her stay with Choo for the remainder of that time.  Choo was 21 (20 in American age) and to pull that off at such a young age was so smooth that the guru jokes “wow you’re a player” to which Choo responds “baseball player.”

And in an moment of saccharine love, Choo says that even if he was born again he’d marry her and from the moment he could crawl he’d find his way to her.  Eventually the two married and had two lovely children.  However, they’ve never had a wedding and Choo hopes that he can have two.  One in Korea and another on the baseball field in front of the home crowd.

Getting back to baseball, in 2006 Choo got his chance to play in the majors.  But because he played the same position as Ichiro, there really wasn’t any opportunities for him to play.  No matter how well he did there was no way the team would bench Ichiro for him.  So he was sent back to the minors and subsequently traded to the Indians.

Before he accepted the trade, he asked whether he would be playing in the majors and the Indians promised he would.  The first game that he played as an Indians was ironically against the Mariners, the same team that let him go.  Choo didn’t care if he sucked for the remainder of his time as an Indian but he just wanted to make sure that he did well that day.  He ended up hitting a home run and winning the game for the team 1-0.

He spent most of the first season with the Indians recovering from Tommy John surgery and playing in the minors.  He contemplated coming back to Korea because it was such a struggle for him.  He talked to his wife about leaving but she eventually convinced him to stay in the States.  Good thing he listened to his wife because he moved on to become one of Cleveland’s biggest stars.

One of the more interesting facts I learned from Choo was that there is a huge difference between the minors and majors.  In the majors, everyone waits on you hand and foot.  Things are done faster, more efficiently and with better service.  In the major leagues even if you don’t play, you’re paid $1,500 for that day.  That’s more than what he was getting paid a month as a minor league player.

Another difference is the food.  There are several leagues in baseball.  Rookie league, single A, double A, triple A, and the major leagues.  As a rookie, you get two rows of sliced bread, peanut butter and jelly.  In single A you get grape jelly too.  Once you make it to double A you get some meat like chicken.  In triple A there’s steak.  But in the majors, its a buffet.  A sushi station, every kind of jam you can imagine, levels of hot sauce and the meat melts in your mouth.  I imagine that’s why players strive even more to get to the majors.

Also, when traveling in the minor leagues they all have to ride buses whether its 2 hours or 15 hours.  In the majors, the workers fold your uniforms perfectly and pack your bags for you.  The players get ready to leave while the bags leave separately for the plane.  You then take a bus not to the airport but to the front door of the plane.  Inside, everyone gets three seats for themselves and while us peons would have to turn off our phones and put our seatbelts on, the players get up to drink, play cards and relax.

However, there are differences even between the majors.  The Yankees are known to have a huge locker room and every locker has their own safe and computer.  Choo admitted he was jealous of the swag, especially the fact that there are electrical outlets.  For some reason he seemed to be obsessed with finding outlets for his laptop.

As one the older more seasoned members, Choo now gets the best locker and has the younger players coming to him for advice which gives him a sense of pride.  Also when he sees American fans holding up signs written in Korean he feels a sense of responsibility to play even harder and better.  One of his dreams is that even after he retires, people will remember him as a hard worker.  Someone who tried their hardest at everything.  If people remember him that way, he thinks he’ll have no regrets once he leaves the game.

Finally the interview comes to an end and the guru gives him some advice:

Being a father your son can be proud of is also being a good dad.  Work hard and make him and Korea proud.

Commentary

The interview was around an hour and a half long but considering the amount of editing that took place, I’m sure the actual interview was longer.  I’m curious as to what they left out.  I actually followed Choo when he first debuted as an Indian but lost track after he went to the minors.

I didn’t know much about him but for some pictures of him and his wife.  At first I thought they were the typical snotty Seoul couple but I was way off the mark.  They seem pretty down to earth and the fact that he has a Busan accent (which is like having a southern accent) makes him even more adorable.

And yes he really does seem to adore his wife THAT much.  http://youtu.be/4bDnTuaLze0

Episode 209 (Part 1)

Date 2010.12.01

Golden Fishery is a two part talk show.  Part one is called “Mu ru pak Dosa” aka the Knee Drop Guru.  The guru Kang Ho Dong is a former Korean Wrestling champion who successfully crossed over into the entertainment world.

Every week a well known Korean figure is invited to the show and addresses a problem or wish they have in their lives.  Its like Oprah, if Oprah was a 200 pound Korean man with red stickers on his cheeks.  Part two is a different show called “Radio Star” where singers come and get grilled by several douchebag-like hosts (this part won’t be recapped).

The guru begins the show by telling Choo how hard it was to book him.  The producers had invited Choo to the show a year ago but at the time, Choo replied that he would attend after the Asian Games.

Immediately after Korea won the 2010 Asian Games, one of the producers tried to call him but his phone, his managers phone and all his handlers phones were unavailable.

As a hail mary, the producer obtained an American phone number for Choo and tried calling.  Choo picked up and for ten minutes straight the producer tried to convince Choo to come.  He answered with one sentence:  “Talk to my manager” and hung up.  Talk about persistence.

After the initial introduction and small talk, the guru gets down to business and asks Choo to reveal his worries.

Many people think I live a worry free life but because I am so busy playing baseball I feel like I’m not a good husband, good father, or good son…unless I quit, it would be hard.

Choo has two sons who at the time of taping were age 7 (6 in American age) and age 15-months.  They live in Arizona while he plays baseball in Cleveland.  The season is seven months long and if there is spring camp, that’s another 2 months so there isn’t any time to be with his family.

The guru points out that as a new father himself, even if he’s gone for two days its a bit awkward and wonders if its the same considering Choo is gone for several months.  Choo says that its not but he feels that his son must really miss him because when he comes home, his son constantly cries.  As a boy he grew up watching and learning from his dad but the fact that he can’t do the same for his children is hard for him.

Also, people at school think his wife is a single mom and guys are giving their numbers to her thinking she’s available.  Apparently his wife looks young for her age (both Choo and his wife are born in 1982) and even when she’s with him, teenagers come up to her and flirt.  So Choo’s always telling her to have the kids with her when she goes out (lol).

What bothers Choo the most about being away is that his son is too mature and is more responsible than a kid his age should be.  His son is always taking care of his mom, protecting her, making sure everything is alright when he’s only 7 years old. Yet when Choo comes home, his son becomes attached and constantly cries.  Choo believes that its because he isn’t at home and feels a lot of guilt because of it.

Also, because Choo isn’t always there for his kids, he tends to spoil his son by buying him every toy in the toy store to the ire of his wife.  I’m sure Choo is just glad if his 15 month old even recognizes who he is.

The guru then changes subjects to the 2010 Asian Games in China.  The guru wonders whether Choo began to feel nervous considering the Games were extremely important to Choo.

In Korea, all able bodied men must enlist in the army and serve for approximately 2 years.  However, the Korean government will waive service for certain athletes.  Winning gold for Korea in the Olympics, Asian Games, etc guarantees a waiver.

Since Choo was an able bodied Korean man, he had to either quit baseball and enlist  or obtain American citizenship to continue playing baseball in America.

Draft dodging in Korea is highly frowned upon and Choo would have been a national pariah if he had chosen the latter.  Moreover the Korean laws have changed in recent years and even if Choo had obtained his American citizenship, if he stepped foot into Korea, the Korean government had authority to detain him and force him to serve the two years.  Therefore he would have been for all intensive purposes banned from Korea.

Choo says that during the Games, he wasn’t nervous or burdened at all.  He just felt like everything was going to go well, that whatever they threw at him he’d be able to hit.  In fact, he was more nervous running the bases than coming up to bat.

One of the more interesting things during the Games was the conditions some of the countries were playing in.  The Mongolians had literally one baseball bat, the Pakistanis were sharing spikes, and the starstruck players and coaches from Hong Kong were taking videos and pictures of him during the game.  Choo understands how they feel because he was in their position at one point in his life and because of his past he tries to appreciate what he has now.

The guru then made fun of him for striking out against pitchers who were throwing at high school speeds.  Isn’t he a major league player?  Choo tried to defend himself by saying he’s used to fast pitches and that it was strange trying to time the slower ones.  (Excuses excuses lol).

When asked about Choo’s pitching abilities (he was a pitcher in high school), he says that he threw at 153km, around 95mph.  No one believes a high school kid could throw at 153km and Choo clarifies that he threw 153km around three times but his average was bit lower.

After a small break the guru begins to ask him some tougher questions.  There were rumors that Choo would have gotten his American citizenship if he had failed to get gold.  Choo admits that he really did think about it.  For the longest time, every interview he did, every time he had a meeting with his team, all hey wanted to know was whether he was going to enlist or get his citizenship.

It was extremely stressful for Choo.  All he had done for twenty years was play baseball.  Not only that, Choo had found his stride and was producing great numbers .  Any runner can tell you two weeks let alone two years without training can hinder their performance.  For an athlete to give up two years is basically career suicide.

However in the end, Choo believed that leaving Korea that way would be a disgrace and that he would never be able to face his parents or hold his head high for his sons.  Good thing for Choo, he never had to choose.

Part 2 of the interview coming soon…



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