Korean pride on the diamondIt was a bonding moment for father and son in the Lee household. Theo Epstein finally pulled the trigger on the long-awaited trade that would send Shea Hillenbrand to the Diamondbacks, bringing to my beloved Red Sox a young man named Kim Byung-hyun. After years of arguing, my father and I had finally found common ground in the baseball world.
We had never really seen eye to eye because for years he had been an avid Dodgers and Diamondbacks fan, and just recently began to root for the Cubs and Rangers. On the other hand, my rooting interest in the National League never extended past Atlanta in 1996 and 1999, San Diego in 1998, the Mets in 2000 and a magical stretch of seven games in 2001 when I was a huge Arizona fan, the last time my father and I were on the same side.
As a Sox fan, my second favorite team no matter what, has always been whoever the hated Yankees happened to be playing the same day. So with the few exceptions of interleague play, my father and I have rarely been able to gather our forces together to cheer for the same team.
Until May 29, 2003, the day that will go down as the historic moment when everything came together. With just a phone call, Epstein and Arizona’s general manager, Joe Garagiola Jr., have done more to bring my father and I together than the doctor who delivered me.
My father had always ragged on me for not showing more national pride in my countrymen because I refuse to root for them unconditionally. On the other hand, I never really understood his obsession with Korean players, because I judge the players strictly from a baseball point of view, and usually objectively.
In my eyes, B.K. is a solid all-star, unique and hard-working. I also agree that Choi Hee-seop has star quality and should be starting over Eric Karros. As for the Korean third-baseman who was signed to the Yankees as their potential future in the hot corner? Well, during the time that he spent in pinstripes, he was akin to Judas in my eyes. So it’s not that I don’t like Korean players, but rather that I like players for reasons other than their ethnic backgrounds.
The trade was a great deal in baseball, and for any nationalistic pride that I possess, it was great. Perhaps this year, Yankees fans will root for whoever plays Boston in the World Series, while I cheer for the Korean right-hander at Fenway Park.
by Steven Lee