Jamie Romak of the SSG Landers watches his solo home run against the Samsung Lions in the bottom of the third inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
South Korea-based Canadian slugger Jamie Romak will be honored Thursday as the top baseball player from his country for the 2020 season.
Romak, first baseman for the SSG Landers in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), will receive the 2020 Tip O'Neill Award before a home game against the Samsung Lions at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul.
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame presents the award annually to the Canadian player "judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball's highest ideals." The prize is named after James "Tip" O'Neill, an early Canadian star in Major League Baseball (MLB). Winners are announced in December, but the award ceremony is held on July 1 Canada Day.
Michael Danagher, Canada's ambassador to South Korea, will present Romak with a commemorative plate, as the trophy itself is too big to be carried to Incheon.
Since the award was first handed out in 1984, MLB stars have dominated the list of winners, including former MVPs Larry Walker, Joey Votto and Justin Morneau. Romak, a native of London, Ontario, is the first player to be honored while playing outside North America.
In 139 games last year, Romak batted .282 with 32 home runs and 91 RBIs, ranking second on the team in the latter two categories.
With the MLB season cut short to 60 games last year while the KBO conducted a full season despite the coronavirus pandemic, the American sports cable giant ESPN carried KBO games, all the way through to the Korean Series. That shined an international spotlight on the achievements of foreign players, such as Romak.
"It was great to show sports fans that high-level baseball exists outside of the major leagues," Romak told Sportsnet.ca.
As for the pregame ceremony, Romak said: "I'm really, really appreciative of all the work that people have done. I'm going to have to apologize to my teammates for having to stand up there and go through this. I'm sure I'll hear about it from them. The fact that my family's here, and we can do it on Canada Day, there's plenty of Canadian expats in the area that are that are big fans of us that come to the games, it'll be just an awesome day all around." (Yonhap)