The Lotte Giants are known to have some of the most passionate fans in Korea. Since the 2010 season, these loyal and loud Giants fans have cheered on pitcher Ryan Sadowski.
was kind enough to participate in an interview via e-mail with MyKBO. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/incugator. MyKBO.net would like to thank Ryan for taking
time out of his schedule to answer these questions.
MyKBO: What made you decide to continue your career in Korea and the KBO?
RS: After the 2009 season, I got a phone call from Jerry Royster. He is friends with my pitching coach in San Francisco, Dave Righetti. He recommended that I go pitch for Jerry. Playing for Jerry didn’t take much convincing.
MyKBO: Before arriving at Lotte, what did you know about the KBO and Korean baseball?
RS: I knew about the ’08 Olympic team because my friend Nate Schierholtz played for Team USA. I remember watching him hit a homer in the game and the US team losing to Korea.
MyKBO: What are some of the differences (on-field and off-field) that you have seen between Korean baseball and baseball in the States?
RS: On the field, the game is exactly the same, but the rules are different. I think of baseball in Korea as yah-goo (야구). I wish I could take a look at a rule book to learn the differences, but I don’t think my Korean skills are good enough to really interpret the rules.
Off the field, Korea is a social culture that you would find to be a bit different than the US. I found it fairly easy to adjust, but I can imagine other foreigners find it quite difficult. I have made some great friends here in Korea and I have a lot of fun.
MyKBO: What has been the most difficult part about living and playing baseball in Korea? What has been the best part?
RS: One thing that you realize really quickly is that people miss people. You miss your friends and family. The best part is meeting new people and making new friends. I have some great teammates and have some memories that I’ll never forget.
MyKBO: How would you compare the competition level in the KBO to the minor leagues and Major League Baseball?
RS: It’s so different it’s hard to compare. You’ll hear people compare it from AA to AAAA. There are plenty of players here that have the skill set to play in the big leagues, but they have been taught a different style of the game. Like I said, these guys play yah-goo (야구.) Just like the language, things get lost in baseball translation.
MyKBO: Who are some of the toughest outs for you in the KBO?
RS: I think Samsung’s 조영훈 Young-Hoon Jo is hitting about .600 off of me. That must be the highest BAA of anybody in the whole league.
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)?
RS: It’s hard to say because of the style, but there are a bunch of guys that have the skills. I’ll list a few guys that really stand out in terms of skills. Jung-Ho Kang 강정호, Hyun-Jin Ryu 류현진, Hyun-Soo Kim 김현수, Jung Choi 최정, Suk-Min Yoon 윤석민. There are a few guys on Lotte that definitely have to skills, too. It’s just hard to know how they will adjust. It’s the same reason why Phil Dumatrait struggles in the KBO and then pitches in the big leagues the next season.
MyKBO: If you were commissioner of the KBO for a day, what are some changes you would make to the league and rules?
RS: I couldn’t do anything in a day. The HBP rule needs to be changed. If it isn’t, the league is going to have a day of mourning for a player that was killed on the field. I’d also like to see the KBO team up with the NPB and MLB to help international marketing and interest. That would take the league becoming much more transparent. I really don’t think that is very realistic.
MyKBO: What are some of the differences you have seen between Royster and Yang? Similarities?
RS: They are both really nice guys off the field. Most people knew that about Jerry, but I don’t think they know that about Yang.
Jerry has 40 years of MLB experience. It’s a style I grew up watching and playing. Jerry would stick with his best 9 guys and play the long run.
Yang has Korea baseball experience. Yang looks for the hot guys and goes with them. He’ll make a lot more in-game changes.
We really will only know which style is more successful in Korea after a few years.
MyKBO: Since arriving in Korea, have you changed the way you pitch, approach the game, play etc?
RS: I’ve had to adjust to the strike zone and the style of hitters. I still try to go out there and have as much fun as possible. It was a bit more difficult early in the season when I was pitching hurt.
MyKBO: How would you describe the fans of Lotte and the atmosphere at Sajik?
MyKBO: Other than Sajik, what’s your favorite stadium to play at in the KBO? Why?
RS: I like playing in Mokdong 목동. It is like playing a home game. Our fans are pretty crazy everywhere.
MyKBO: Do you hang out with your teammates off-the-field and away from the stadium?
RS: Yeah, my teammates know about my favorite Korean restaurants and coffee shops. Some of us will go out for a drink sometimes, too.
MyKBO: How would your rate your Korean language skills? How have you learned Korean (via friends, textbook etc)? Do you have any problems with communication, translations etc on the field and off it?
RS: I had no idea what I was getting myself into when it came to the language. I wanted to learn how to be polite and independent. I figured it would be learning about 50-100 words. After about 2 weeks of a beginner Korean language book, I had learned about 100 words and I realized that if I was going learn Korean I would have to jump in head first. My speaking skills are brutal because I’ve never had a teacher. My listening reading and writing skills are at about a Kindergarten level. I have no shame in making mistakes and failing.
MyKBO: With all the rainouts this season, how would you like to see the KBO handle the makeup games? Are you a fan of doubleheaders?
RS: There is really nothing that can be done. I grew up in Florida where rain delays are terrible for players and fans. In Korea, the games are called early to help the players and fans. I have thought of the idea of playing on Monday if you have a weekend rainout, but that would cost the league gates which translates into money. Double-headers would be a headache, too. The only solution is to make it so that it doesn’t rain so much. If you can make that happen, you are a better man than me.
MyKBO: What’s your favorite Korean food? What’s your favorite Western restaurant to eat at in Korea?
RS: Having a favorite Korean food is like having a favorite K-pop girl band. There are so many to choose from. If I had to go with one it would be Bong-Joo Jjim-Dalk 봉추찜닭.
Western Restaurant – California Pizza Kitchen near City Hall in Seoul.
MyKBO: Over the past year and a half, have you and your wife been able to do any sightseeing in Korea? If so, what have been some of your highlights?
RS: Yong-Goong Sah 용궁사 Temple is one of the best views in all of Korea. The Seh-Jong 세중 and Soong-shin Lee 이숭신 memorials were really interesting, too.
MyKBO: If you had not become a professional baseball player, what would you be doing?
RS: Honestly, I’d probably be helping people or businesses who have budget issues in the U.S. right now. There are plenty of those. It’s not terribly exciting stuff.
MyKBO: Growing up, who were some of your favorite baseball players?
RS: I was a big Nolan Ryan fan. I would try to convince myself that I was somehow related to him since his last name was my first name. I was a big fan of the Sadowski brothers Ed, Bob, and Ted who played back in the ‘60’s. I also tried to convince myself that I was related to them because we share the same last name, but I’m not related to them either.
MyKBO: What do you like to do in your free time?
RS: I like taking my video camera around Korea and make Youtube videos. I thought I was a great fusion to educate Americans about Korean Culture and Koreans about American Culture.
MyKBO: PC or Mac?
MyKBO: Favorite movie?
RS: Comedy – The Big Lebowski; Drama – Shawshank Redemption
MyKBO: Favorite music/artist?
RS: This is like asking somebody what their favorite Korean food is. There are so many to choose from. My favorite band is Incubus. I like listening to a bit of everything.
MyKBO: Finally, is there anything you would like to say to your fans around the KBO?
RS: I just want the fans to know that they are the most important part of the KBO. Without them, the KBO doesn’t exist and I really appreciate their support.
Finally, a question for Mrs. Sadowski:
MyKBO: Best and worst part about being the wife of a professional baseball player?
RS: She thinks that the best part and the worst part are nearly the same.
Best – Getting to Travel
Worst – Having to travel