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How Some Foreign-Born Baseball Players Are Quickly Becoming Fan Favorites in South Korea

Baseball team in South Korea (Image by IRIS-MINI from Pixabay)

During a baseball game between the NC Dinos and LG Twins, South Koreans discussed their favorite players. Many answered the likes of Son Ah-Seop and Hong Chang-hi.

Unexpectedly, Rio Ruiz ranked among those South Korean players.

Rio Ruiz

Baseball player Rio Ruiz (Image by Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA CC BY-SA 2.0)
By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA – Rio Ruiz, CC BY-SA 2.0

Rio Ruiz is one of many foreign players in the Korean Baseball Organization gaining popularity. Aged 27, Rio Ruiz played for the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles and Colorado Rockies. In December 2021, Ruiz signed with the LG Twins in South Korea.

Nick Martini

Baseball player Nick Martini
Nick Martini (Photo credit: Minda Haas KuhlmannCC BY 2.0)

LG Twins were not the only ones to express their appreciation for their foreign player. NC Dinos fans responded that Nick Martini was among their favorites. Martini is 31 years old and played for the Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres and the Chicago Cubs before signing with the NC Dinos for the 2022 season.

WHY THE KOREAN BASEBALL ORGANIZATION?

This begs the question, why are U.S. players signing with teams so far from home?

According to Baseball America, many U.S. Major League Baseball players find their way to Korea and Japan for financial reasons. As free agents, their pay is increased substantially once they join the KBO. Because of this, positions in the KBO are very sought after. Furthermore, foreign players are often provided with luxury apartments and interpreters to aid them.

As “The Korea Herald” indicates, South Korea recently lifted most of their COVID-19 travel restrictions.  Previously, Korea strongly regulated international travel. What will these changes mean for foreign players in the KBO?

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