Dodgers manager Roberts recounts fond memories with Korean players

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts plays with a football during the team's workout at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, March 16. Yonhap

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts plays with a football during the team’s workout at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, March 16. Yonhap

Hours before his team played its first exhibition game in Seoul on Sunday, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts took a few moments to reminisce about Korean stars he has had as a teammate and a player.

Roberts played for the San Diego Padres from 2005 to 2006 alongside Korean pitcher Park Chan-ho. Then as manager, Roberts had another Korean hurler, Ryu Hyun-jin, from 2016 to 2019.

Roberts said he hadn’t yet reconnected with Ryu since he arrived in Korea on Friday. He smiled and said, “Come hit me up, Hyun-jin!”

“I love him, man. I wish I would have been a teammate of his because he’s a funny guy. He’s a great competitor,” Roberts said at a press conference at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, before the Dodgers played the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). The Dodgers will later play the Padres in a two-game Seoul Series, for the first two MLB games to be played in Korea.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, center, watches his team's workout at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, March 16. Yonhap

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, center, watches his team’s workout at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, March 16. Yonhap

Ryu has rejoined his old KBO club, Hanwha Eagles, after 11 years in MLB. He was scheduled to pitch in a preseason game later Sunday.

“I think it’s very cool that he can come back and play in the KBO. I think that’s fantastic,” Roberts said. “I’ve got nothing but great things to say about Hyun-jin.”

Roberts and Park go back even further. They met in San Diego at the tail end of their careers in the mid-2000s.

Park became the first Korean player in MLB when he made his debut with the Dodgers in 1994, and Roberts said he was happy to see his old mate be involved in the Seoul Series.

Park will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the first game between the Dodgers and the Padres on Wednesday.

“It’s sort of like a culmination for him, I would assume,” Roberts said. “He was a pioneer as a Korean-born player to come to the States and to be a star player and then to now have his former teammates and team that he played with come to his homeland … I think it’s come full circle and so it’s only fitting that he throws out the first pitch. I think for him to get to show off his country is really exciting.”

As for the game on the field, Roberts said Shohei Ohtani, the Dodgers’ prized offseason acquisition, will get two at-bats as designated hitter. The two-way sensation will only hit this year as he recovers from his offseason elbow operation.

Even though it’s an exhibition game, Roberts said his players will be fired up.

“I think they’re going to be intense,” Roberts said of the upcoming exhibitions, with the Korean national up next Monday. “I think certainly with the pitching and running out different relievers today and then the position players sort of piggybacking and kind of mixing and matching is one part of it. But we’re three days away from playing real major league games to open our season. So there’s already a different vibe in our clubhouse where guys are starting to hone their focus, which they have to.” (Yonhap)

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