Koreans Race for the Ring

MLB Postseason Kicks Off, Local Talent Under the Spotlight


While all Koreans have been eliminated from the Playoffs, MLB continues to present exciting matches.

Justin Park, Alyssa Chang, and Mikey Pierog

Fall is in the air, and that can only mean one thing for MLB fans: America’s national ball game has officially entered the postseason. Ten teams – five from the American League and five from the National League – are fighting for the greatest achievement in baseball that this planet has to offer: the World Series Title. 

Among the titans who led their squads into Autumn’s highest stages are K-ballers: familiar last names to Koreans are seen in the playoff rosters of two teams. Kwang-hyun Kim (김광현) and Ji-man Choi (최지만), play for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Rays respectively. Both players continue to strive for higher titles in their career, and influence other fellow Korean baseball players.

Kwang-hyun Kim, dubbed “KK” in America, was a former starting pitcher for the SK Wyverns (currently rebranded as the SSG Landers). After dominating the KBO and protecting the mound of Incheon for twelve years, he announced his departure from his beloved home in 2020, signing with the St. Louis Cardinals. 

As a part of the decorated National League team as a starting pitcher, Kim has consistently put up solid performances, cementing himself as a pitcher that the Cardinals can always count on. While Kim struggled a bit this year, he still assisted the team in reaching the NL Wildcard match as a bullpen pitcher and a reliever – not to mention the fact that Kim was still the second most played starting pitcher of the Cardinals’s 2021 season, getting himself seven wins. To say that Kim was an important part of the team would be an understatement. 

In fact, this is KK’s second year of playing in the postseason for the Cardinals, as he was also part of the 2020 Cardinals roster that just fell short at the NL Wildcard match against the San Diego Padres. Unfortunately, Kim’s journey ended at the Wildcard match this year as well, as the Cardinals ended up getting eliminated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in an incredibly close game.

On the other side of the bracket is Ji-Man Choi, also known as “G-Man” or “G-Money” to most American fans, who has actually never played in the KBO before. After graduating high school, he directly signed with a Minor League Team in America, and has been a staple batter of the Rays since 2019. What’s more impressive is that ever since Choi became part of the 40-man roster of Tamba Bay, he made three consecutive appearances in the postseason – in 2019, 2020, and 2021 – with one of them being a World Series appearance in 2020: the first ever for a Korean player.

His stats are noteworthy, too: as a part of the primary batting rotation, Choi holds 15 hits and four home runs, amounting to six runs batted in during the postseason alone. In fact, just a few days ago, he slammed a solo home run against the Boston Red Sox in a crucial ALDS match, although the Rays ended up losing that game. With a batting average of .242, Choi is a definitive plus to the fiery Rays’s batting lineup. Unfortunately, Choi was also eliminated from the playoffs, as Tampa Bay was shockingly upset by Boston in a 3-1 series.

While the season for Korean Major Leaguers is over, there are still more Koreans hungry for next year. Ha-Seong Kim(김하성) from the San Diego Padres, Hyun-Jin Ryu (류현진) from the Toronto Blue Jays, Hoy Jun Park(박효준) from the Pittsburgh Pirates, and potentially more, all continue to attain all baseball players’ dreams: winning the world series.