Jerry Royster will always be known as the first foreign manager in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). He will also be remembered for taking the Lotte Giants to 3 straight postseasons during his time in Busan (before Royster took over, the Giants had missed the playoffs for 7 straight seasons). Royster managed the Lotte Giants from 2008 until 2010, posting a regular-season record of 204-185 and 3 ties. Despite the winning record and multiple playoff berths, Lotte decided to not bring Royster back for the 2011 season.
MyKBO.net had the honor of participating in an e-mail interview with Jerry Royster. While MyKBO.net is disappointed that Jerry Royster will not be returning to Lotte in the 2011 season, we are hoping that he returns to manage in the KBO in the future.
MyKBO: Since you departed Korea, how have you been spending your time?
JR: I have just moved to Santa Monica on the beach. I have spent my time traveling with my family and playing golf. It feels strange not to be in camp at this time.
MyKBO: With baseball season right around the corner, are you currently involved in anything baseball related (scouting, broadcasting, coaching etc)? If not, are you enjoying your time away from the sport?
JR: I will be doing some broadcasting once Spring Training games start.
MyKBO: If you had never played/managed the sport of baseball, what do you think you would be doing these days?
JR: I have been in professional baseball since I graduated from High School in 1971 (40 years). Playing in the Major Leagues was something I wanted to do since I was a kid. I was blessed with 2 beautiful daughters and I know that I would be doing everything in my power to seeing their dreams fulfilled.
MyKBO: Upon arriving in Korea, was there anything that stood out or surprised you about the game of baseball in Korea (the way it was played, rules, atmosphere etc)? If so, what was it?
JR: I didn’t know anything about Korean baseball before meeting with the ownership of the Lotte Giants. Training camp reminded me of my first days as a professional. Everything was new. The players didn’t know me and I didn’t know them. We broke the game down from the beginning. The one thing that I noticed was that almost all the players were not playing to their potential. It was fun to watch them develop.
MyKBO: In the upcoming 2011 season the KBO has decided to not count ties as losses, but they will continue to allow games to end in a tie. What is your opinion about the tie game rule in the KBO? Would you like to see games be played until a winner is decided?
JR: Ties as losses was the single worst rule in KBO. It seemed as though the league dwelled on the negative. I believe that they should play the games out but I hope that ties count for at least 1/2 a win.
MyKBO: If you were the Commissioner of the KBO for a day, what would be one thing that you would like to change? Why?
JR: KBO is a very good organization and is getting better. I would make the managers exchange lineups before the game as oppose to announcing the pitchers the night before.
MyKBO: Other than the language barrier, what would you say was the most difficult part about being a foreign manager in the KBO? Did you ever encounter any sort of discrimination against you for being a foreigner during your stay in Korea (on or off the baseball field)?
JR: No one was treated better than I was. The opposing managers and umpires were very respectful and accommodating. The people of Korea treated me like one of their own. Lotte did everything they could to make me comfortable.
MyKBO: Recently the KBO announced the approval of a 9th team to be based in Changwon. The Lotte Giants voted against this expansion team. What is your opinion about the KBO's plans to expand?
JR: It just shows the popularity of baseball in Korea. The game has grown so much in the last 3 years. Winning the gold medal in 2008 was monument for Korean baseball and it has grown ever since. With 3 teams drawing over a million fans last season proved to KBO that a 9th team would thrive in Changwon.
MyKBO: If the opportunity came about, would you be interested in returning to Korea to manage in the future? If yes, would you be interested in managing the new expansion team or would you prefer a team that has already been established?
JR: I would love to manage again in Korea. Lotte will always be special to me but managing any team in KBO sounds good.
MyKBO: With the possibility of Yoon Suk-min, Ryu Hyun-jin, Kim Kwang-hyun, and others trying to go abroad in the near future, which player(s) currently in the KBO do you think could one day make a MLB team roster?
JR: There are many players that could play in MLB with a bit of coaching. Again most KBO players are not close to reaching their potential. Lee Dae-ho won the Triple Crown and still has room for improvement.
MyKBO: How would you describe the Lotte Giants' fans and the atmosphere at Sajik Stadium?
JR: Just amazing. I wish everyone here in America could see what I experienced on a daily basis.
MyKBO: What was one of your most memorable moments during your time in Korea (baseball or non-baseball related)?
JR: Number one for sure was the banner that covered the left field stands in Seoul that the Korean fans made for me in support of me returning for the 2011 season. It literally brought tears to my eyes...Playing golf with President George Bush on a few occasions...Lunch with Colin Powell...Spending the day on the USS George Washington with Commander Dave Lausman.
MyKBO: What is your favorite Korean food? What was your favorite Western restaurant in Korea?
JR: The Kitchen at the W hotel in Seoul was my favorite western style restaurant. All of the seafood soups were my favorite Korean dishes.
MyKBO: Will you continue to follow the KBO, its teams and players from here in the United States?
JR: I stay in contact with many of my players and coaches from Lotte. I will follow the games on Naver.
MyKBO: Many Lotte fans and other KBO fans wish you were still managing in Korea. Is there anything you would like to say to your fans in Korea and around the globe?
JR: I miss you all very much. I would have loved to stay in Korea but Lotte wanted to go in a different direction. I look forward to returning to Korea soon. Thank you for all the support that I continue to receive.
Note: MyKBO.net would like to thank Jerry Royster for taking the time to answer these questions. During our communication between each other, Jerry wanted to make sure that the following message was said,
"Please let all the fans know how much I appreciate their support".
Fans around the KBO will miss seeing him in the dugout this season, but we all hope he will return to Korea in the near future. Keep checking back here for more interviews with various people involved with the KBO.