ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo spent seven years in the Minor Leagues. The last three years (2005-07) were at Triple-A in the Mariners system trying to take care of his wife Won Mi Ha and his infant son Alan on $350 a week.
There were times when he would save his $20-a-day meal money from the road so that he could afford to buy diapers and other basic necessities.
“I still remember that,” Choo said. “I will never forget the Minor Leagues.”
Choo is not forgetting the Minor Leagues right now while baseball is shut down during the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic. Choo is pledging $1,000 to each of the 191 players in the Rangers farm system who are trying to make ends meet until baseball resumes.
“Twenty years ago, when I came from Korea, I had nothing,” Choo said. “Baseball gave me a lot of things. I want to pay back to other people. Especially with a hard situation in the world, to be able to help is great.”
Choo said he started thinking about this on the Rangers charter flight from Arizona over two weeks ago. Elvis Andrus sat down next to him and they started discussing different ways to help out during the crisis.
“I don’t know why, but it hit me, and I started thinking about Minor Leaguers,” Choo said.
“I did seven years in the Minor Leaguers,” Choo said. “I know the Minor Leagues is better than 15-20 years ago, but I still know that money is difficult. Minor League players are very important to the Rangers.”
The Rangers were able to house some of their foreign-born players at Rangers Village in Arizona and a few others at their Academy in the Dominican Republic. Most of those players are Venezuelan. The vast majority were sent home and are now scattered across the country with their Major League dreams on hold.
Most are trying to find ways to stay in shape until the call comes to send them back to work. Some are trying to find jobs to help make ends meet.
“I don’t want these guys worrying about money and have it affect their baseball careers,” Choo said. “Someday these guys are going to come up here and help us win a championship.”
Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that it has extended the league-wide initiative of financial support to Minor League players through May 31 or the beginning of the season, whichever comes first. Minor League players normally don’t get paid their salaries until the start of the regular season. Players will also continue to receive their medical benefits.
Choo’s donations will help augment that and he has discussed the Minor Leaguers with many of his teammates.
“Everybody knows [about Minor Leaguers,]” Choo said. “It may not be public, but everybody knows.”
Choo, who is from South Korea, is also donating $200,000 to the Korean Community Fund back home. His money is going toward the city of Daegu, which has a population of about 2.5 million and was hit hard by the virus. Daegu is about an hour away from Choo’s hometown of Busan.
“I heard that Daegu is really bad,” Choo said. “A lot of people have been affected by the coronavirus. Everybody is talking about Daegu. I want to help that area.”
Choo still has family in Korea, including his mother and father. He tries to talk with them two to three times a week and said they are carefully following quarantine restrictions.
“My mom loves to make friends and talk to people,” Choo said. “But now, you just stay home.”
The Choo family is also being careful at their home in Southlake, Texas. Choo has three children -- sons Alan and Aidan and daughter Abigail – and they are trying to get used to having their father home all the time right now.
“I play 20 years in baseball and I have never been at home this much time,” Choo said. “Everybody works so hard. We forget about family sometimes and forget how you talk to your kids and your wife. I don’t want to say you enjoy it, but every minute, every hour of every day is important because you won’t get it back.”