The Reds continued their proud tradition of signing Korean baseball players yesterday by trading for Shin-Soo Choo. He joins the ranks of Jung-Keon Bong and Sun-Woo Kim as South Koreans in south Ohio. I know these other guys were bit players, but they played far less than I recalled. Jung Bong came to the Reds from Atlanta at the end of spring training in 2004 when he was traded along with Bubba Nelson (two Bubbas in one decade!) for Chris Reitsma. Reitsma appeared in a career high 84 games that year and posted an ERA+ of 105. Bong pitched long relief in only three games, gave up three home runs, and sold a lot of jerseys.
Those three games absolutely dwarf the two games (and 6.2 innings) Sun-Woo Kim pitched for the Reds. It was 2006 and Walt Krivsky was trying his best to acquire as many people who had played for the Nationals as possible. Kim started one game, pitched in relief in another, and that was it. Kim was picked up by the Giants minor league system, but never made it back to the majors.
In fact, Cincinnati was the last stop for both Bong and Kim. They both made their way back to the Korean Baseball Organization, where they still play today. Sun-Woo Kim plays for the Doosan Bears (finished third in 2012), and Jung Bong plays for the LG Twins (seventh). These two seem thoroughly pedestrian, and yet they’ve achieved some success on the international stage. Sun-Woo Kim represented South Korea in the World Baseball Classic in 2006, and won the bronze medal. They give out medals for the WBC, right? Bong has been even better, playing with Kim on that 2006 WBC team and also on the 2009 WBC team that finished second. Bong was even named to the All WBC Team. Shin-Soo Choo was his teammate there, and surely he was regaled with stories of Cincinnati’s hospitality.
Shin-Soo Choo hails from the baseball loving city of Busan in southeastern South Korea, on the complete other side of the country from Incheon (Kim) and Seoul (Bong) in the northeast. All of Busan will surely rejoice after the fourth inning in Game 3 of the 2013 season because that’s when Choo will surpass the combined innings total of South Koreans in Cincinnati. It will be an incredible moment for the baseball in its journey towards becoming the world’s game. It will also be awesome because of that home run Choo just hit in the fourth.
Fun Sun-Woo Kim Fact! Kim was the starting pitcher for the final game in Montreal. He lasted less than three innings.
Fun Red Reporter Fact! Since the Reds have this proud Korean tradition, your favorite peripatetic law student will be changing his handle to Psy Schourek.