Hank Conger, a Korean-American catcher

Hank Conger (left), with Shin-Soo Choo of the Cleveland Indians. Photo by John Cordes/Courtesy of Angels Baseball via KoreAm magazine

Hank Conger (left), with Shin-Soo Choo of the Cleveland Indians. Photo by John Cordes/Courtesy of Angels Baseball via KoreAm magazine

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.”

Read the whole story here.

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.

PITCHERS

Rk Yrs From ▴ To W L W-L% ERA G SV IP H R ER HR BB SO Birthdate Debut
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
Totals 55 1994 2010 249 247 .502 4.57 1371 90 4388.0 4404 2416 2229 535 1814 3495
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/11/2011.

BATTERS

Rk Yrs From ▴ To G PA AB R H HR RBI SB SO BA OBP SLG Birthdate Debut
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
Totals 66 1994 2011 2238 4142 3525 458 867 107 463 63 976 .246 .333 .402
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/12/2011.
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