Choo-Ryu matchup a big draw for S. Korean population
LOS ANGELES -- Reds center fielder and South Korea native Shin-Soo Choo played against the Mets a few months ago in New York, the home of the second-largest South Korean population in the United States.
New York trails only greater Los Angeles and its South Korean population of roughly 330,000. Unsurprisingly, Choo has been a popular guy this weekend at Dodger Stadium.
"I like to see a lot of Korean fans because I've played in Cleveland and Cincinnati, where there aren't a lot of Korean people," Choo said. "It's quiet -- no media, no fans. But here, it's like a small Korea."
The demands for Choo have included Thursday and Friday pregame and postgame press conferences with South Korean media. It's also meant more away-from-the ballpark encounters.
"Before games, I'm at a restaurant, people try to get pictures or an autograph," Choo said. "It's not my style. I like to focus on baseball."
On Saturday, the matchup between the Reds and Dodgers featured Choo batting against starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, marking the first meeting of players from South Korea since Choo and the Indians faced Chan Ho Park of the Yankees on July 29, 2010. The game was broadcast live in South Korea to a viewing audience of approximately 18.5 million households.
The Dodgers issued 90 media credentials to 30 different South Korean media outlets for the game. Choo never faced Ryu in South Korea, but they were teammates in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and 2010 Asian Games.
"He pitched very well in the Asian Games and we won a gold medal. It got me out of military service," Choo said. "He pitched in our championship. I really appreciated it. He didn't have to pitch that day."
All South Korean men are usually obligated to serve in the military for two years before the age of 30. Due to the gold medal win, Choo was granted an exemption by the government in 2010 after the Asian Games.