If you are a baseball fan, you may already know that the LA Dodgers are coming to Toronto to play against the Blue Jays from July 22 to 24. And you would probably know that these are extremely rare sort of games – something that happens maybe once in every 6 years or so. The Dodgers don’t usually play the Blue Jays – having to do with the way the league is set up. If you already know this much, you may also know that the Dodgers are bringing a left-handed starting pitcher, a brand new star player from South Korea named Ryu Hyun-jin.
Ryu is far from being a brand new baseball player, however. Since starting at KBO (Korea Baseball Organization) in 2006, he became the only player in KBO history to win both the Rookie of the Year award and the MVP award in the same season. He was also a seven-time All-Star and most valuable player. He pitched at the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Over his career, he was 98-52 with a 2.80 earned-run average. (To non-baseball fans, just know that it’s a fantastic stat) Still, Ryu’s lack of experience with the majors caused many to raise their eyebrows when the Dodgers signed him up for a six-year, $36-million contract last December. Ryu, after all, is the first player ever to have gone directly from the Korean league to the major leagues.
Korea adores baseball. If you ever have the fortune of seeing a baseball game in Korea, you would likely find yourself astounded by the fervor and frenzy of the Korean fans. While the sport has always been popular in Korea, its popularity skyrocketed when pitcher Chan-ho Park made his debut for the LA Dodgers in 1994, paving the way for the likes of Hee Seop Choi, Byung Hyun Kim, and Shin-Soo Choo. The 2008 Beijing Olympics in which Ryu pitched, Korea won the gold medal in baseball. A rookie to the major leagues he may be, but a force to be reckoned with he undoubtedly is. The July 22-24 Dodgers-Blue Jays games should definitely be interesting to watch, least of all for the rare match of the two teams.
* Wikipedia has been used as the source for facts about Ryu’s stats.