Shin-Soo Choo trivia (no, not about his stats)

Rick Yeatts

Hello, all. Thanks for reading, in advance.

I feel like saying first that I'm very sorry for my incomplete English. Actually this is my 1st fan post not only for LSB but also for the entire sbnation.

I'm writing this post in the hope of letting you guys know Choo as a person better. Frankly, I like Choo as a person more than Choo as a baseball player.

  • Having been the promising pitcher throughout his amateur career, Choo got shocked on the first training day in Mariners rookie team. Rookie league coaching staff, wondering why he was stepping on the mound, told him it was not his position. Actually he didn’t know the Mariners had signed with him as a position player until he was sent to the rookie league team under Mariners.* It’s said there was controversy indeed between the hitting coach and the pitching coach then. Rookie team hitting coach at the time reportedly told Choo, "As a pitcher you could be a star, but as a hitter you can be a super-star." Choo later told Korean media regarding that conversion, that he had accepted the aforementioned advice because he had the confidence in himself as a hitter.

* from wikipedia: Choo was selected as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Best Pitcher of the 2000 World Junior Baseball Championship as South Korea won the event. Choo signed a $1.35 million contract with the Mariners after the championship and converted to the outfield.

  • Unfortunately, the Mariners then had enough corner outfielders and many minor league COF prospects as well. Having difficulty making room for him in the outfield for years even though Choo played well enough to be called up, the Mariners tried to convert him to a pitcher again. They approached Choo’s agent to discuss regarding that re-conversion, but the agent at the time rejected the plan on the spot. Choong-Moo Lee, Choo’s agent(2004-2006) then, even prevented the team from notifying Choo about the plan. Lee, working in the front office of KT Wiz in KBO now, told Korean media that he didn’t want Choo to get affected by knowing the plan. He didn’t want his player to fall in the state of confusion. On 23rd December 2013, Lee got message from Choo as the news of the Texas Rangers deal started to make headlines. With the message, Choo thanked him for the help during the minor league days.
  • Having played as a pitcher, he could become an outfielder with the cannon arm as well as the precision in throwing. However, his pre-MLB career as a pitcher seemed to affect his elbow much already and he had to take Tommy John surgery in 2007 eventually. During the rehab, he considered going back to Korea to play in KBO league. He told in the documentary that with uncertainty for the future, he thought of giving up his pursuit of full-time major leaguer for the first time because he already had the family to support, the wife and his first son. He told about the plan to his wife, Won Mi, who told him not to give up. She told Choo that she would move to Korea just with the son if supporting family burdened him. Though they cried a lot that night, Choo didn't give up his career in US. With lots of her stories known to Koreans from Choo's minor league era, Mrs. Choo is known as "Queen of Assisting Husband" in Korea.
  • On 3rd July 2009, Choo played his best game(5AB 4H 2HR 7RBI) since his big league debut but he declined all the post-game interview. A few hours before the game on that day, he was informed that Sung-Ok Cho, team manager in his high school days, passed away due to the disease. The late Cho was the father figure to Choo. Since Choo started his new career in the States, Cho's jersey has always been hung in his locker. The life as a minor leaguer in States was not easy at all for young Korean kid and Choo used to get encouraged by seeing his mentor's uniform every day. Choo and his family said in the documentary that they believe Choo's good performance of that day was the last present from the late Cho.
  • Korean MLB fans believe he is the only player in MLB history* who homered in the first games against the former teams he was traded from. Two days after being traded to Cleveland Indians in 2006, he hit a game-winning(1-0) solo home run against the Mariners. Against the Indians, he hit leadoff solo home run as a Red in May 27th, 2013. Later, in the interview with Korean media, Choo told he wanted to play really well in the game against Mariners.**

* Having no credible data to back this, I’m not sure this is true.

** Revenge? Maybe. But considering his personality—prudent, considerate and self-motivating, I guess Choo at the time wanted to prove something to himself not to the Mariners.

  • There were 17 Korean minor leaguers in 2001. Choo, the youngest one at the time, is the only one survived in big league as of 2013. There still are some young Korean players in minor leagues. As he experienced the hardships minor leaguers have to get through, he is known to provide the baseball equipments for Korean brethren in minor leagues for years.
  • Choo has his own custom bat model(Shin-Soo Choo Marucci Bone Rubbed baseball bat model SWMG Custom Cut). Also, he has a tattoo on the forearm showing caligraphy of letters 'SWMG'. Those are letters from the names of his family members. S from Shin-soo, W from Won Mi(his wife), M from Moo-bin(Korean name of his elder son, Alan) and G from Gun-woo(Korean name of his younger son, Aiden).
  • Mrs. Choo told Korean media that she was really impressed with the delicacy Jon Daniels showed with the present. JD gave the present for Choo family when he met Scott Boras in LA, 2nd December 2013. The present included Korean red ginseng for Choo, Jerseys with the kids' names inscribed and the other Rangers merchandise for kids. Mrs. Choo took pictures of the kids in the Rangers jersey holding the merchandise on the day Choo brought the present home in Arizona. Two weeks later, the pictures were posted by herself on Choo's fan community in Korea and those pictures even became a post on MLB via LSB. Korean MLB fans joke about this present. If Yankees Cashman added the more touching present for Mrs. Choo to $140/7 offer, she might have prevented Choo from turning down Yankees offer.

There are more stories I want to share, like how Choo met his wife when he was a minor leaguer, Choo's wedding event plan(they couldn't afford the wedding then and yet to have the event), etc. but I'll try more next time because it's too late here in Korea now. I guess I need some sleep. :)

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