L.A. based Korean-American magazine, KoreAm‘s May issue is all about Hank Conger, Korean-American catcher for the Los Angeles Angels. Conger is a a third-generation Korean American, born and raised in the United States, and both of his parents are of Korean descent. His story — and his whole family’s story — is an American story. It really is an American Dream that he now plays in the Bigs.
In the past, Yun [Conger, Hank’s dad] could be one of those overbearing sports parents, the older Conger admits.
Says Hank, with a laugh, “There’s some stories I shouldn’t share because it’s probably borderline child abuse. Yeah, he pushed. At the same time, it wasn’t like he was forcing me to play. I was constantly trying to drag him out to the baseball field.”
“It didn’t matter how hard I pushed him, he always wanted more. Thanksgiving, Christmas, his birthday, my birthday, we were on the baseball field,” says Yun. “My wife would bring us lunch. Hank would hit, and his younger brother Adrian and my wife would fetch balls. Our whole family had to sacrifice a lot. But we enjoyed it.”
It also meant family vacations not to Alaska or the Bahamas, but rather to Florida or Cooperstown, New York, site of the baseball Hall of Fame, traveling along with one of Hank’s teams. Yun, who was an assistant coach on some teams, had to take a lot of time off from work—even when he didn’t have the time. Thrice, Yun has been fired from a job because of baseball.
“I had to do what I had to do,” says Yun. “Also, I got to spend a lot of time with him. Everywhere he went I went; actually as a family we went. It was good.”
Reminds me of Japanese cartoon, Kojin no Hoshi (or Star of the Giants), the way Hank’s father trained his son and lost his job three times. It is a great story now that he has made it to the majors. Ichiro Suzuki’s father was another that dedicated a lot of his time for his son’s baseball.
American League West has more Asian catchers. Kurt Suzuki of Oakland Athletics is a Nikkei Sansei player from Hawaii. Kenji Johjima, only Japanese catcher to play in MLB was with the Seattle Mariners. And Oakland bench coach and former-Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu was a catcher in his playing days and Yonsei Japanese, but he played for Chicago White Sox (AL Central) in 1991.
Korean-born Players who played in MLB
Even though Hank Conger is not included, because his place of birth is in United States, baseball-reference.com keep track of all players by birth country. Here are the list of MLB player who were born in South Korea.
|1||Chan Ho Park||17||1994||2010||124||98||.559||4.36||476||2||1993.0||1872||1046||965||230||910||1715||Jun 3, 1973||Apr 8, 1994|
|2||Jin Ho Cho||2||1998||1999||2||6||.250||6.52||13||0||58.0||73||43||42||11||11||31||Aug 16, 1975||Jul 4, 1998|
|3||Byung-Hyun Kim||9||1999||2007||54||60||.474||4.42||394||86||841.0||781||451||413||94||376||806||Jan 19, 1979||May 29, 1999|
|4||Sang-Hoon Lee||1||2000||2000||0||0||3.09||9||0||11.2||11||4||4||2||4||6||Mar 11, 1971||Jun 29, 2000|
|5||Sun-Woo Kim||6||2001||2006||13||13||.500||5.31||118||0||337.0||396||211||199||44||127||211||Sep 4, 1977||Jun 15, 2001|
|6||Jae Weong Seo||6||2002||2007||28||40||.412||4.60||118||0||606.1||691||341||310||86||184||340||May 24, 1977||Jul 21, 2002|
|7||Jung Bong||3||2002||2004||7||4||.636||5.17||48||1||78.1||81||50||45||11||43||62||Jul 15, 1980||Apr 23, 2002|
|9||Cha-Seung Baek||4||2004||2008||16||18||.471||4.83||59||0||279.2||294||161||150||35||81||184||May 29, 1980||Aug 8, 2004|
|10||Dae-Sung Koo||1||2005||2005||0||0||3.91||33||0||23.0||22||12||10||2||13||23||Aug 2, 1969||Apr 4, 2005|
|11||Jae Kuk Ryu||3||2006||2008||1||3||.250||7.49||28||0||39.2||54||33||33||9||18||32||May 30, 1983||May 14, 2006|
|7||Hee-Seop Choi||4||2002||2005||363||1086||915||130||220||40||120||3||262||.240||.349||.437||Mar 16, 1979||Sep 3, 2002|
|12||Shin-Soo Choo||7||2005||2011||493||2072||1774||281||518||63||287||58||437||.292||.385||.478||Jul 13, 1982||Apr 21, 2005|