A team of expat baseball players has made it into the highest tier of one of Korea’s top amateur leagues, becoming the league’s first all-foreign team in the process.
The Seoul Ex-Patriots are mostly players chosen from the Seoul Baseball League. The team started when one of its players, Dennis Jung, who played in both leagues, proposed the inclusion of an SBL team in the Woosu League.
“The Woosu League liked the idea of an all-foreigner baseball team. It’s never been done before. They’ve always had a rule that you can have two foreigners on your team, but they wanted to have a completely all-foreign team,” said Ex-Patriot player Ryan Burda, who also runs the Seoul Baseball League.
The Seoul Ex-Patriots baseball team (Krystie Lange)
After selecting players and organizing fund-raising events in Itaewon, they entered the league’s top Cheongnyong League, playing double-headers to catch up, as the team had started halfway through the season.
“(Jung) knows the commissioner and told him about the quality of players that we have, so they put us in the top league to see how we would do,” said Burda.
“They were not sure if we’d even win a game, but we’ve won three out of four to start off the season, so it’s pretty good.”
He said the standard of baseball in the Woosu League was better not just in terms of players, but also refereeing and the fields.
“We are playing against ex-professionals and some guys that played a while ago for the KBO and some of them played minor league baseball,” said Burda.
The Seoul Baseball League is competitive, Burda said, but the quality of players is mixed.
“There are some really good players and some guys who haven’t played for a long time or just want to learn the sport,” he said. “So this is much better. It’s a lot of mistake-free baseball, facing consistent, really good pitchers. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Burda said it was good experience for the Ex-Patriot players to get to play each other because many of the players were from different teams in the SBL.
“There are six teams in the Seoul Baseball League so a lot of us are getting the chance to play together for the first time,” he said.
Burda said that should they win the league, the Ex-Patriots would qualify to represent Korea in an international competition in Taiwan, though he conceded that it would be strange to have a team entirely of foreigners do this. For now, they are giving the league the best shot they can.
“I’d say we have a pretty good team. Hopefully we can keep gelling together and get better. We’ve had some close games, but I think we can do pretty well.”
By Paul Kerry (email@example.com