Ryu, Choo return to S. Korea, offer advice to Park Byung-ho, Lee Dae-ho

November 16, 2015
Los Angeles Dodgers' pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin, left, Texas Rangers' outfielder Choo Shin-soo. (Yonhap)

Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin, left, Texas Rangers’ outfielder Choo Shin-soo. (Yonhap)

By Nam Hyun-woo

Texas Rangers’ Choo Shin-soo and Los Angeles Dodgers’ Ryu Hyun-jin, two Korean stars of Major League Baseball returned home during the weekend, to recall their past season and pledged to achieve better performances after the winter break.

Texas Rangers right fielder Choo arrived at the Incheon International Airport, Sunday, and said he learned the most this year.

“I learn new things every year and I learned the most in mental perspective this year,” Choo told reporters during a news conference in Seoul. “It was an unforgettable year.”

Choo’s remark came after he spent a sluggish month in the early season. In April, he went 5-for-52 and averaged .096. It was the lowest batting average among all Major League qualified players.

“Since the early part of the season was horrible, I have learned a lot of things other than playing baseball,” recalled Choo. “The past seven months were like two years for me.”

Choo managed to put himself back on track next month, with a .295, six homers and 18 RBIs, and turned himself around in July, becoming the first Asian-born player to hit for the cycle in the big league during a July 22 game against the Colorado Rockies.

“The best moment probably was when I hit for the cycle,” he told reporters. “I thought I could do that someday, but what makes me really happy is that I am the first Asian-born player to do so.

“When I hit the last triple, I heard that it took only seven seconds to reach the third base from the first. During those seven seconds, all bad memories in the early season and hard times went away. When I sled into the third, I felt so good and there was like a big cyclone in my heart,” he said.

After the All-Star break, Choo documented a series of solid numbers as Choo was named one of the best players in MLB after the All-Star Break.

In September, he was named as the American League Player of the Month with a .404 batting average and a .515 on-base percentage. It was a remarkable turnaround, given he raised his batting average to .343 in the second half 2015 from a .221 pre-All-Star break batting average. As he got into his stride, the Rangers also got into form to win the American League for the first time in four years. He finished the season with .276, 22 home runs and 82 RBIs.

“After this season, I looked back whether I spent a solid season,” Choo said. “And I would say so, because my team had a good season.

“No one, even our team, was so sure that the Rangers would win the league, because we lost Yu Darvish. The team actually had hard times in April and May. But as we started to address small things, we narrowed the margin and managed to win.

“I expect very much about the next season, because Darvish and Cole Hamels will return to our starting rotations. And we had also reinforcement in the bullpen,” Choo said.

A day earlier, Los Angeles Dodgers injury-hit starter Ryu Hyun-jin arrived in Korea to continue his rehabilitation from a torn labrum in his left shoulder, which forced him to blank his season.

“I’m in good condition now and I can do any exercise except for pitching,” Ryu told Yonhap News. “I look forward to joining the rotation in April and hope to pitch in some pre-season games. I expect that I can join the spring camp for next season without any problem.”

After notching up 14 wins in 2014, Ryu reported pain in his left shoulder before 2015 season and underwent a surgery on May 22. He said he wanted to avoid surgery as much as he can, but he now thinks it was worth doing so. “Now, the important thing is the recovery from it,” he said, adding that he can play catch at some 105 feet.

Both Ryu and Choo expressed hopes over Koreans seeking to play in the big league. Earlier, Japan Series MVP Lee Dae-ho and Korea Baseball Organization League home-run leader Park Byung-ho announced their intent to play in MLB.

“Both Lee and Park are few talents that I highly recognize,” said Choo. “Some say Lee’s running could be a problem, but there are many Major Leaguers who run slower than Lee. Also I talked to Park several times and I felt that he is preparing a lot to play in the big league. I hope they will play solidly in MLB.”

“The most important thing is how they think about themselves,” Ryu said. “They should see themselves as a challenger and think about with whom they want to play.”

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