Wednesday, March 5, 2014

New Pirates pitcher complains to press about life in Korea.


Coverage by OhMyNews. "Korean life was terrible" . . . Returning foreign player's "criticisms".

This off-season the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Adam Wilk, a pitcher formerly in the Detroit Tigers organization and who pitched the 2013 in the Korean Baseball Organization. Some Korean news outlets have noticed the comments Wilk made about his time in Changwon to the USA Today and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. In the USA Today, about his year with the NC Dinos:
"They could have thrown another ton of money at me, I was not going back," he says. "The whole time I was there was just terrible. What was told to me at the beginning before I signed, what would happen, where we'd live, the details, none of that ever happened."
. . .
"It was just a residential city," he says. "There were no parks. There was nothing to do in our free time. We were kind of on our own."

And there was a culture-shock element to the baseball.

"(The players) cheer like it's college," Wilks says. They cheer every strike, every ball. It's just softball style rah-rah. They didn't like that we didn't cheer like that. Well, we cheer when good things happen. We don't cheer when our guy strikes and loses the game with the bases loaded looking at a fastball. But they kind of do, so it gets a bit overwhelming at times. You just adjust to and deal with it."
Wilk had more for the Tribune-Review on February 28.
“It was an experience, to say the least,” Wilk said. “For me, it wasn't a good experience. A lot of (the team's) promises were very deceitful, an attempt to get us to sign.”

There were 17 foreign players — guys from the United States and Latin America — in the KPBL last season. Wilk, 26, was one of three American pitchers with the NC Dinos.

The Dinos are based in Changwon, an industrial city on South Korea's southeastern coast. The North Korean border is about 400 miles away, and tensions between the countries always are high.

“It was nerve-racking,” Wilk said. “I had a ‘to-go bag' ready to go in case I needed to ditch the country and escape on a boat to Japan. I tried my best not to think about it because I didn't want to be worried.”

Wilk said team officials told the Americans they would live in upscale apartments in the Jungang-Dong district, which has plenty of shops and restaurants that cater to foreigners. Instead, Wilk said he was housed in an area several miles away.

“No parks, no restaurants, no anything,” Wilk said. “There was nothing to do. We found out later that the apartments in (Jungang-Dong) were significantly more expensive and the team wanted to cut costs.”
. . .
The fields are smaller than MLB ballyards. Masan Stadium, the Dinos' home field, has a capacity of 16,000 and is 380 feet to center field. The baseballs are not rubbed up before a game. Pitchers get them straight out of the package, shiny white and slick.

“It's a different style of baseball,” Wilk said. “Not a lot of power hitters there. Guys just want to put the ball in play, singles hitters. They're taking two-strike swings from the first pitch of the game.”

The relationship between Wilk and the Dinos' manager was uneasy from the start and only got worse. In August, six months after arriving, Wilk left South Korea. He pitched in 17 games and went 4-8 with a 4.12 ERA.

“The manager didn't want me anymore,” Wilk said. “They sent me home early, then lied to the media about it. They said I had an arm injury.”
. . .
Wilk said his brief stint in South Korea wasn't all bad.

“It definitely taught me that, however many problems the United States has, we still are the best country in the world,” he said. “It helped me as a pitcher. It's a different style of baseball over there, and I had to learn how to be successful. I did learn a lot.”
Wilk went 4-8 with NC, was demoted to the Korean minor leagues, and was ultimately sent home. And lest anyone think it's a rural outpost, Changwon is a city of over 1,000,000, and one that absorbed two neighboring cities in 2010.

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