New sophomore the ‘Seoul’ of baseball team

March 8, 2016 — by Jay Kim and Amith Galivanche

The transfer from South Korea is making an impact on the varsity team.

In PE teacher Yuko Aoki’s fourth-period class during a mile run, one boy speeds past the others, finishing minutes before anyone else. During weight training, he is able to properly lift nearly 30 pounds more than the standard. While he may seem like little more than a very athletic individual, sophomore Daniel Ryu is also one of the best high school baseball players in South Korea — and now he is set to make his contribution to the school’s varsity team.

Due to his father’s job transfer, Ryu moved to the United States last semester. He is still learning to speak English, but he is quickly making his abilities known on the baseball diamond. (The interview for this story was conducted in Korean and translated into English.)

“[Daniel has] definitely been a great addition to the team. We're down a few outfielders right now due to injury and he's really stepped up to fill void,” said pitcher Tyler Yoshihara, a team co-captain. “Having a sophomore as skilled as him has been huge for us so far this season.”

Ryu was on the track to become a professional baseball player in Korea. He was recruited by Sunrin Internet High School, famous for its baseball team that has won a number of international competitions.

Most notably, according to Ryu, his team won the Golden Lion Flag National High School Baseball Championship, which is one of the biggest competitions for Korean high schools nationwide.

Ryu has been on an elite track since middle school, when he was selected to represent Korea in an international competition.

Ryu and his junior high national team claimed second place in the Cal Ripken Junior World Series, a renowned international competition with countries from all around the world such as Korea, Japan and the Dominican Republic.

The degree of Ryu’s skill was further emphasized when he won a Golden Glove award for his skills in center field.

In one of the games during the Cal Ripken Junior World Series, the team was able to defeat an American team by 12 runs. Ryu was surprised how the other team’s coaches responded to the loss.

“In Korea, if you lose a match or make an error with that big of a gap, you would be criticized and punished by your coaches by running endless laps around the field,” Ryu said. “What I found surprising was how forgiving and inclusive American baseball players and coaches were.”

These memories of American players contributed to Ryu’s decision to move to America with his family rather than staying and pursuing a career as a baseball player in Korea.

“I wanted to study while playing the sport I’ve been doing since elementary school,” Ryu said. “Once I become a professional athlete, I would lose my chance to study.”

In Korea, according to Ryu, student athletes practice so rigorously that most players have to skip most of school. The practices begin right after lunch and can last until 11 p.m., making it difficult for student athletes to study or lead a conventional high school lifestyle.

According to Ryu, giving up on academics to become a professional baseball player is a risky choice for any student athlete. If the athletes are not able to be drafted, their options are limited because they have had a weak education.

With this situation in mind, Ryu has become highly motivated to put his best effort into his school work.

Although he has only lived in the United States for a few months and speaks limited English, Ryu already has ambitious goals. He is aiming to continue baseball until college and hopes to be drafted by a professional team, while majoring on sports-related subjects like sports marketing or sports medicine.

“Playing baseball in the United States is a totally different feeling for me,” Ryu said. “I wish I get to take my experience and utilize it to help the team.”

 
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