Nexen’s Cory Aldridge is one of the few foreign players in the KBO who is
not listed on the roster as a pitcher. Despite spending most of his time in the outfield, Aldridge does have some professional
experience as a pitcher. Continue reading
MyKBO.net’s interview with Cory Aldridge
to find out more about his outing as a relief pitcher, life in Korea, and a variety of other topics. MyKBO would like to thank Cory for taking the
time to answer these questions. He can
be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aldridge32.
MyKBO: What made you decide to continue your career in Korea and the KBO?
CA: I have wanted to play out of the country for a few years now. In the past, I dealt with so many injuries that made it tough to stay on the field. My agent was very influential with my going. He said I would love it, and my personality would be great for this country. My agent has had so many guys play in Japan and Korea and really pushed it on me; I finally said yes.
MyKBO: Before arriving in Florida at Nexen’s Spring Training, what did you know about the KBO and Korean baseball? Did you talk to anyone that had played in Korea before?
CA: I knew guys that had played in Korea but not much about the actual KBO. I only knew things to watch out for. Nobody said much really. There were players that gave me advice, but it’s tough to prepare for certain things I have been through.
MyKBO: What are some of the differences (on-field and off-field) that you have seen between Korean baseball and baseball in the States?
CA: Wow that's a long answer; I'll give a few.
MyKBO: What has been the most difficult part about living and playing baseball in Korea? What has been the best part?
CA: The most difficult is that everyone talks about how foreigners need to adjust to the culture and “Korean style,” but they don't accept anything different. People and players ask me things like "Why are you doing that? Eating it like that? Why are you not doing this? We eat this; we do this, etc." I’m not Korean and I’m not trying to be Korean. I’m just being me. I did not come here to change my ways or conform to something else. I generally get looked at weirdly for talking to a woman on and off the field because, men/players think that I'm always trying to flirt with them. I was raised to treat women equal or even better than men. Here, it is a joy to talk to a woman, because they seem to have a lot to talk about. I think that compared to the United States, they are socially more advanced than most men here. I get tired of seeing men all day and talking about the same thing all day with men. I love my teammates and male friends, but I definitely enjoy a women’s company more. Where I’m from, hanging with men all the time is not cool.
Another funny thing is being accused of drinking the “Korean way”. So many people want to think because I have a drink at night that I sit around being drunk or drinking all night just because some people here do it. It’s not my style. I honesty respect and accept the culture and the differences, but I don't think it’s reciprocated by many. I try my best not to offend someone and be as private as I can. When I say I don't like something or ask people not to do something to me, I hear, "Hey it’s Korean style."
I found it weird how in Spring, everyone wanted to take Knight and me out to eat and make us feel comfortable, but I never see anyone before or after games now that we’re in Korea. I really would love to actually have more real friends on my team or in general than I do, but its different here. Some men really don't reciprocate friendly gestures. I really shouldn't be the one bringing others tobacco, shoes, gloves, food, and asking to go out since this is not my home. I am very aware that I am a guest here and want to be respectful of that.
There are also coaches that want you to do things their way and expect the same result as you would your own way, and then they get mad if you don't want their advice. It’s really tough to play that way, to do well, and to feel comfortable when you’re being asked to do something completely different than what got you here. Many people, coaches, reporters, or baseball people always have an opinion on what you should be or shouldn’t be doing, especially if it’s not “the Korean way.” Some people love saying, "You should sleep, don't drink after game, maybe you like (fill in the blank) too much", or my favorite "Korean players do this, so you should too.” Trying to be Korean or trying to please others is a good reason I hit .200 the first part of the season. By June and July, I found peace in being me rather than trying to be someone or something I’m not.
Probably the most difficult is if you have a bad game or week, many players or office people don't talk to you. Have a good game, then everyone wants to be your friend. Also, many people group foreigners in the same category, like we are all the same - bad and good.
The best part has been learning different culture and the fans and food. I really love the food and the availability. I also love the portions and how people love to see you eat. Eating is definitely something I love to do.
The fans have been unbelievable in making me feel comfortable and staying positive. This has been the worst year I can think of from injury, to swing problems, rain, etc., but I have really had fun. I really enjoy Korea, most of the people, and just going to the stadium everyday. Really my experience has been great and I have loved 90% of my time here. I could see myself living here and being very happy. I have a serious goal and desire to play a long time here; I pray that can happen. There is a lot of love here that is given to me and I enjoy giving it back. This country is so pure in itself and makes me very happy when I wake up knowing I really don't have many worries except trying to be me. I have found so much to do and always feel very comfortable even if I can’t speak the language very well. This might sound funny but I wish I could make a crossover when I retire and become an actor/TV personality, especially here in Korea. I like the entertainment aspect of Korea and have thought for years about my desire to make that crossover. Korea could be a great place for that!
MyKBO: Describe the interaction you have with the team during a game and at practice. Do you have any problems with communication, translations, etc?
CA: I generally have great conversations with about 5 guys. I really look forward to those 5 everyday. There is not much problem at all with communication. The language of men is very universal. Many players come and ask me many questions everyday about baseball - or better - just life stuff. I love to sit, laugh, and talk with the guys. Culturally, people see you talking and think you are friends so easily. That’s not how it is where I'm from. There are friends and teammates. We talk a lot and joke but it would just be better if it was off the field as well. I really don't know anything about most of these guys. I try. Going out to eat can be tough but I get by...I point a lot.
MyKBO: How would you compare the competition level in the KBO to the minor leagues and Major League Baseball?
CA: That is a tough question. It ranges from AA to the Major Leagues. Defense is very lower-level, even with just routine stuff. Hitting is AAA/Major leagues. These guys can hit. I can say pitching is AA to big leagues. Guys that are good are good; some guys just don't have confidence to be good yet. The biggest problem is that most guys could be so much better with some confidence, or with someone lifting them up to give them confidence.
MyKBO: Who are some of the toughest pitchers that you have faced in the KBO? In the States?
CA: Wow tough question! I hate facing #19 (Jung Hyun-wook) from Samsung because he has four good pitches. The same with Kia's ace, but I actually don't mind facing him. In the US, the nastiest pitcher - to me - that I can think of is Brandon League, and that was in spring training. Or Neftali Feliz. I think my record against Feliz is good, but he throws 102...c’mon!!
The problem in Korea is most guys don't pitch to contact. The ones that do usually are successful and can make that transition to the States.
MyKBO: Are there any players currently in the KBO that you think would be able to make the transition to playing in the States (MLB/minors)?
CA: The only way to answer that is ‘yes.’ The problem here is coaching and confidence. There are so many players that are, and can be, great players. There are players that, if they had States’ coaching, could be outstanding. Most players’ confidence is so bad they really never know or see how good they can be, i.e. #53 on our team (Ko Jong-wook). All I can say is yes because there is potential in some players. Even better to send players to the States and then bring them back and see how good they can be after they come back.
They could open up a small talent pool by setting guidelines for American Koreans. There aren’t many, but I really feel it could make the KBO stronger. I find it odd that some Koreans in the States can play in the WBC, but not here in the KBO, i.e. my friend Steven Yoo who is trying to play here. There are many guys that can go to the States, but there are ways to make KBO stronger with Korean players.
MyKBO: Other than Mokdong Stadium, what is your favorite stadium to play in? Why?
CA: Jamsil or Busan. The energy in those stadiums is amazing. Those fans and cheerleaders are non-stop. The best is that they support the team when they are losing or winning. That’s a true fan.
MyKBO: AAA in the USA or the KBO? How is the KBO better/worse (travel, hotels, etc) than being in the minors?
CA: Travel here is better but traffic is terrible. I’m not a fan of the hotels here because they don't have wireless and bars (LOL). I really don't have a problem with either. Trips here are cool because they aren't long. AAA can be terrible because of the early, early plane rides and layovers. I’ll take Korean travel any day but, not the traffic!
MyKBO: In 2008, you played in the Atlantic League, which is an independent league. What was your time like playing in that league?
CA: The Atlantic League was great. I had so much fun and, regained my love for playing again. I dealt with so many problems and had a bitter taste in my mouth with baseball. It was great because there was no front office to mess with your head and you can do your own thing there. All of the players there were really close and had a great time. It’s always great to relax have fun and do your own thing and trust yourself as a player. It gets bad when people want you to do what they want you to do, rather than what you’re comfortable with. How can you play when you can’t be yourself? That league was very professional and everyone treated you that way. They actually had better fan support than most minor league teams. The competition was great. There were so many MLB players and guys coming back from Japan.
MyKBO: During that 2008 season, it shows that you took the mound for an inning and pitched. Was that your first time pitching in a game? What was it like? Would you like the opportunity to pitch again?
CA: I talk about pitching here all the time. They have seen my cutter. It was a great experience but scary seeing these big guys swinging as hard as they can at what I threw. I flinched every time I threw a pitch. And I also had a sore back when I was finished. I was throwing a cutter I learned from Greg Maddux and it worked like a charm... It was 2 innings but trust me, my back remembers. I’ve asked the pitching coach to let me pitch again. I would love to do it. I think my cutter is better than ever...
MyKBO: What sports did you play as a child? Was baseball always your favorite sport to play?
CA: I was a soccer player growing up in a family of football players. My dad played for the San Francisco 49ers, so football was in my blood. I played soccer, basketball, baseball, and football. I think I was a very good soccer and football player. I also love golf now and really wish I had learned it at a young age. Baseball was probably my favorite because my friends and I played it all the time with home run derby etc.
MyKBO: Who were some of the athletes (any specific baseball players) that you followed and looked up to while growing up?
CA: My favorite players or athletes were Fred McGriff and Barry Sanders. They always acted like they have been there before. They were amazing players that never tried to draw attention to themselves; it just happened. Amazingly nice guys. A true hero for me is a guy who cares for others, helps his players get better, plays hard when things are good and bad, and does not look for rewards; just does his job. It is very hard to find that, but it’s important to me. Those two guys played the game the right way. They respected their sports.
MyKBO: What are some of the most memorable moments from your playing career so far?
CA: My most memorable was being in the MLB during September 11th and playing in the first game after that happened. Also, my first major league hit after four surgeries, retirement, disappointment, doubt and nine years removed - I actually cried. There were so many emotions that had been accumulating for 31 years. Lots of dreams and desires. I’ve always had talent and ability, but injuries have consistently hindered my career. Being a respected player is good, but accomplishing a goal I’ve had since I was a kid is the blessing of blessings. Thank GOD!
MyKBO: What are some of your favorite Korean foods that you have discovered during your time in Korea?
CA: I like it all except kimchi. The spicier the better. Oddly enough, I like the octopus and squid. I do not like the cold noodles or anything else cold. I think the rice cakes and rice desserts are funny, but not what I like to eat. I pretty much enjoy it all; I can’t single anything out.
MyKBO: You seem to love food, what’s your all-time favorite meal?
CA: Honestly chicken fried steak and gravy with mashed potatoes and gravy and gravy and gravy…. Or more special would be anything my grandmother cooks God bless her…Easily the best cook I’ve ever seen - and I’ve been everywhere.
MyKBO: If you weren’t a baseball player, what do you think you would be doing now? After your playing career, what would you like to do?
CA: I would be working with my step-dad and his construction company. I have learned so much about building homes and commercial buildings. That’s what I do in the off-season. When I retire, I may do that or coach…. Again my dream is to kind of make that crossover to TV or something. Maybe someone here could use my services. My Korean is getting better. I can have two residences USA and Korea. That’s a question I ask myself all the time. Haven't narrowed it down.
MyKBO: What do you like to do in your free-time?
CA: When I’m home I like to golf, play guitar when I’m free, hunt, travel and see friends… I’m pretty simple... Most of my off-season is spent training and shooting guns, eating, and having a good time. I really enjoy hanging out with my step-dad learning his business. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that he and my mom are actually pretty fun. I hope I can actually hang out with my brother Nathan more, but he works all the time. Most importantly, I look forward to the time I can spend with my three children. Being with and around them in the off-season is crucial, given the amount of time I spend away from them during the season.
MyKBO: What would be more likely to happen in a game: You striking out the side or your teammate Brandon Knight hitting a home run?
CA: Me striking out the side. Brandon has a good swing, but he is rusty. I think I can trick some guys (LOL). Really it’s 50/50 because I’m sure he won’t have anyone in his ear telling him what to do. He could easily get into one. I trust his skills.
MyKBO: What are some of your favorite movies, TV shows, and musicians?
CA: My favorite TV shows: Married with Children, Martin, Psych, Get Smart.
Movies: The Last Dragon, Juice, War Games, Never Ending Story.
My favorite musician is a guitarist named Buckethead. His creativity is amazing and skills are outstanding. He is kind of “out there” mentally, but most of the great ones are. I really love all music types and I actually used to be a D.J. That used to be kind of a dream in my younger days.
MyKBO: You recently started using Twitter, have you always been involved with your fans via social networking?
CA: Honestly I’m a private person. I don't like electronic friends or people that are not tangible friends… Facebook, MySpace etc. But here is different, and I’m fascinated with the culture comparison and the difference in thinking here. I actually see these people and talk to them. It is really refreshing too to know that the fans want me to be comfortable. Most don't really know me but are passionate… I hope they learn that I’m more than a baseball player and baseball is not my life. Twitter has been fun. I really enjoy talking to you also. Good laughs...
MyKBO: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans?
CA: You guys are amazing! I hope and pray that I’m in Korea again and I want to make you guys as happy as you make me… Keep Fighting, and, as always, Trust Yourself!