Event Title

Alone in the Middle of Nowhere: Stories of the Cultural Plight of Korean Minor League Baseball Players

Presenter Information

Donghyuk Shin, University of Iowa

Location

Panel 23: Kearney 323

Start Date

27-10-2012 1:15 PM

End Date

27-10-2012 2:45 PM

Description

The global migration of professional athletes has escalated during the last a few decades (Magee & Sugdeen, 2002). Especially in baseball, after the inception of free agency in the early 1970s, the influx of large numbers of Latin American players transformed the face of the game of baseball. Although several Korean players participated in American professional baseball in the 1980s, it is safe to say that Chan Ho Park in 1994 paved the way from Korean baseball to Major League Baseball. Park became a staff ace for the LA Dodgers, winning 18 games in 2000; for Koreans, who were suffering an economic depression, he became a national hero. Many young Korean players crossed the Pacific Ocean with hopes of becoming another Park.

In reality, most of the Korean prospects had a difficult time on and off the field. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the stories of cultural conflicts experienced by Korean minor league baseball players in America. To guide the narrative, I will utilize World Systems theory to analyze and compare the differences between the migratory patterns of Korean players and those of Japanese players. In short, while most Japanese players are considered to be fully developed and ready to commence their Major League careers, most Korean players are regarded as young, inexperienced who therefore have to navigate the minor league systems to survive. This means that they have to deal not only with baseball but also with homesickness, language barriers, and cultural differences. However, unlike the Major Leagues, minor league organizations do not have the resources to help these players with the challenges they face.

Jae-Kuk Ryu, a former pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, is an example of the phenomenon that is explored in this paper. In April 2003, during a pregame practice in Daytona, Florida, Ryu threw a baseball at an osprey and the bird eventually died; Ryu later told reporters that his act had been instigated by the opposing players, but he had to pay a $500 fine and serve 100 hours of community service. In addition, he was demoted to the Single-A Lansing organization. This became a media issue that resulted in Ryu’s receiving many hate mails from fans. The incident will be discussed in this paper within the context of the Asian American stereotype of being diligent and subservient or the so called “Model Minority” (Mayeda 1999).

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Oct 27th, 1:15 PM Oct 27th, 2:45 PM

Alone in the Middle of Nowhere: Stories of the Cultural Plight of Korean Minor League Baseball Players

Panel 23: Kearney 323

The global migration of professional athletes has escalated during the last a few decades (Magee & Sugdeen, 2002). Especially in baseball, after the inception of free agency in the early 1970s, the influx of large numbers of Latin American players transformed the face of the game of baseball. Although several Korean players participated in American professional baseball in the 1980s, it is safe to say that Chan Ho Park in 1994 paved the way from Korean baseball to Major League Baseball. Park became a staff ace for the LA Dodgers, winning 18 games in 2000; for Koreans, who were suffering an economic depression, he became a national hero. Many young Korean players crossed the Pacific Ocean with hopes of becoming another Park.

In reality, most of the Korean prospects had a difficult time on and off the field. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the stories of cultural conflicts experienced by Korean minor league baseball players in America. To guide the narrative, I will utilize World Systems theory to analyze and compare the differences between the migratory patterns of Korean players and those of Japanese players. In short, while most Japanese players are considered to be fully developed and ready to commence their Major League careers, most Korean players are regarded as young, inexperienced who therefore have to navigate the minor league systems to survive. This means that they have to deal not only with baseball but also with homesickness, language barriers, and cultural differences. However, unlike the Major Leagues, minor league organizations do not have the resources to help these players with the challenges they face.

Jae-Kuk Ryu, a former pitcher for the Chicago Cubs, is an example of the phenomenon that is explored in this paper. In April 2003, during a pregame practice in Daytona, Florida, Ryu threw a baseball at an osprey and the bird eventually died; Ryu later told reporters that his act had been instigated by the opposing players, but he had to pay a $500 fine and serve 100 hours of community service. In addition, he was demoted to the Single-A Lansing organization. This became a media issue that resulted in Ryu’s receiving many hate mails from fans. The incident will be discussed in this paper within the context of the Asian American stereotype of being diligent and subservient or the so called “Model Minority” (Mayeda 1999).