The logistical scramble to get Cease to Seoul

March 16th, 2024

SEOUL -- didn’t even get his new team’s cushy charter flight as part of what has to be one of the most unconventional first asks for a newly acquired player in the history of trades: Hey, welcome to the team, you’ll now need to fly commercial -- and not nonstop -- to South Korea to meet your teammates for the first time.

And despite Cease having done all that to get to Seoul to be with his new team, it turns out not everyone had even seen the fruits of that labor several hours after they arrived as a team at the Gocheok SkyDome.

“I haven't seen him yet,” said on Saturday afternoon to a round of laughs.

Cease, whose acquisition was finalized on Wednesday as the Padres were boarding their flight to Seoul, didn’t have time to get on that plane -- but he made his own way across the Pacific, and is set to take the mound as a Padre for the first time as part of San Diego’s second exhibition game of the week against the LG Twins on Monday, manager Mike Shildt announced on Saturday.

“Talk about history, I've got to imagine that's pretty historic -- you show up for the first time, you get traded, you meet your club in Seoul,” Shildt said. “But he's excited. Talked to him briefly before I came in here. Sitting down across from , breaking bread, so they're getting acquainted with each other.”

Here’s the added wrinkle to that: The Padres are done with Spring Training in the Phoenix area and won’t be going back, as they’re set to play exhibitions at Petco Park before they begin their domestic regular season.

So not only did Cease have to scramble to find his passport and get booked on the flight, but he also had to pack up his entire Spring Training life, get his car shipped and get fully ready to leave Arizona for good in the roughly 27 hours between the trade breaking and the flight he’d need to catch to his layover in Los Angeles in the 7 p.m. hour on Thursday.

The first time Padres player and staff services director T.J. Lasita texted Cease about logistics was after the travel party had already cleared security at the airport.

As the team plane took off and made its 13-hour, 23-minute voyage across the Pacific, Lasita was frantically texting back and forth with Cease and Major League Baseball (who served as the conduit with the South Korean consulate) to negotiate not only his travel, but the work visa they’d need to expedite for Cease in South Korea (everyone from players, to staff, to media members had to get short-term work visas for this trip).

“It's a tough journey, especially getting traded, ‘Hey, by the way, you're going to Korea tomorrow,’” said. “He's a trooper for doing that.”

By the way, one wrinkle that made for added chaos? Cease couldn’t initially find his passport, leading the group to go down some frenzied rabbit holes for possibilities like getting a replacement passport on short notice or even somebody going through Cease’s house in Georgia and physically flying the passport to Padres spring HQ in Peoria, Ariz., to unite him with the document.

When Cease went to bed on Wednesday, he still hadn’t found the passport. Fortunately, a very patient and receptive Cease did eventually find the passport at his temporary home in Arizona and things fell in place from there, with Cease throwing at the Padres’ complex on Thursday before hopping on that flight to Los Angeles, then to Seoul.

With the time quickly ticking away to Opening Day, every day for Cease to get to know his teammates matters -- and his teammates certainly seem to appreciate the effort.

“I mean, this is a good spot to kind of get to know a team,” Machado said. “He hasn't been around, so to get to know him for the next couple of days before the season starts is going to be huge.”

In any other season, Cease would simply have had to drive the roughly 10 miles from Glendale to Peoria following the trade -- and, well, it takes a lot of effort to turn 10 miles into 6,218.

“Huge, huge relief watching him walk through the door today,” Lasita said. “It felt like I was going through battle with him for 24 hours.”