Saturday, July 31, 2021

Ernesto Mejia

This past week Ernesto Mejia asked for and received his release from the Saitama Seibu Lions.  Mejia wanted to be able to spend time with his family and he was unable to bring them to Japan.

Mejia joined the Lions a month or so into the 2014 season after 10 years in the Braves and Royals organizations.  His 34 home runs that season tied him with his teammate Takeya Nakamura for the Pacific League lead.  He followed that up with a couple good years with 27 and 35 home runs respectively but he had a poor season in 2017 and injuries started cutting into his playing time the following four seasons.

He seemed to always have a flair for coming through in the clutch, though, as epitomized on Opening Day in 2016 against Orix when he had a game tying single in the seventh and a game winning single in the bottom of the ninth, a day commemorated by Calbee on two separate cards in their Series Two set that year.  As a Lions fan, I'll never forget seeing his heroics along with crazy stuff like hitting home runs entirely out of Seibu Dome.

Pacific League TV put out a video featuring highlights from his career (although it doesn't include Opening Day from 2016):

Here's a handful of his baseball cards.  I had intended to just pick one per year but I couldn't narrow it down for a couple years.  His 2016 BBM 2nd Version and 2019 Epoch One cards commemorate events featured in the video.

2014 BBM 2nd Version "1st Version Update" #413

2014 Calbee #182

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #131

2015 BBM 1st Version #127

2016 Calbee "First Win" #FW-04

2016 Calbee Checklist #C-7

2016 BBM 2nd Version #442

2017 BBM Lions #L57

2018 BBM 1st Version #044

2019 Epoch One #631

2020 Epoch NPB #024

2021 Epoch NPB #097

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Active Former Korean Olympians

I did a post last week on the former Japanese Olympic baseball players still active in either NPB or MLB but for some reason it took me a week to realize that I could do a similar post for Korean players.  There are just seven former Korean Olympic baseball players still active in KBO or MLB.  All of whom played on the Gold Medal winning team from the 2008 Beijing Games.  The players are Kang Min-ho of the Samsung Lions, Kim Hyun-soo of the LG Twins, Kim Kwang-hyun of the St Louis Cardinals, Lee Dae-ho of the Lotte Giants, Lee Yong-kyu of the Kiwoom Heroes, Oh Seung-hwan of Samsung and Ryu Hyun-jin of the Toronto Blue Jays.  Oh, Kang and Kim Hyun-soo are on the Korean roster for the Tokyo Games.  In fact, all three played in the team's win against Israel "today" (yesterday Korea and Japan time) with Oh getting the win (after blowing the save by giving up a game tying home run to Ryan Lavarnway in the ninth inning) and Kim hitting a game tying home run of his own in the seventh inning.  

Here's cards of each of the seven players.  Since there are no Korean Olympic team cards that I'm aware of, these are all KBO cards:

2019 SCC KBO Collection 2 SCCR2-19/111 All Star

2018 SCC KBO Collection SCCR-01/141 (Kim Hyun-soo)

2015 Superstar Baseball Season Two Sticker

2017 SCC #SCC-01-LT15/N

2018 Hanwha Eagles Calendar cards

2020 SCC Premium #SCCP1-20/L05

2010 KBO Game Set #AH-002

I guess it's not surprising that out of the seven players, five are either current or former MLB players.  Besides Kim Kwang-hyun and Ryu, Kim Hyun-soo played for the Orioles and Phillies, Lee Dae-ho played for the Mariners,  and Oh pitched for the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Rockies.  

Monday, July 26, 2021

NPB And KBO Players On Olympic Team Rosters

I wanted to do one final post on the Olympic Baseball Rosters.  This post lists the former and active foreign players from both NPB and KBO who are on the rosters for the Dominican Republic, Israel, Mexico and the US.  

Actually, Israel doesn't have any NPB or KBO players on their squad but the Dominican Republic has five, Mexico has four and Team USA features five.

The five players for the Dominican Republic are Jairo Asencio (Kia Tigers 2014), Juan Francisco (Yomiuri Giants 2015), CC Mercedes (Yomiuri Giants 2017-present), Angel Sanchez (SK Wyverns 2018-19, Yomiuri Giants 2020-present) and Raul Valdes (Chunichi Dragons 2015-17).  I don't know of a KBO card for Asencio (mostly because Dan hasn't done a Foreign Attack set for 2014 yet) but here are cards of the other players including both a KBO and NPB card for Sanchez:

2015 BBM Giants #G47

2020 BBM 2nd Version #467

2018 Vittum Foreign Attack #27

2020 BBM 1st Version #167

2016 BBM Dragons #D24

The four Mexican players are Joey Meneses (Orix Buffaloes 2019), Efren Navarro (Hanshin Tigers 2018-19), Ramiro Pena (Hiroshima Toyo Carp 2017) and Sammy Solis (Yokohama DeNA Baystars 2019).  I do not know of any Japanese cards for Solis but here are cards of the other three:

2019 BBM 1st Version #097

2019 Epoch NPB #421

2017 BBM Carp Successful Achievement #23

Finally the five players on Team USA's roster are Tyler Austin (Yokohama DeNA Baystars 2020-present), Anthony Carter (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters 2014), Brandon Dickson (Orix Buffaloes 2013-20) , Nick Martinez (Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters 2018-20, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 2021-present) and Scott McGough (Tokyo Yakult Swallows 2019-present).  I have NPB cards for all five these players:

2020 BBM 1st Version #204

2014 SCM #258

2016 BBM 2nd Version #451

2019 Epoch NPB #079

2020 Epoch NPB #407

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Card Of The Week July 25

When I was researching my post on the Korean Olympic Baseball Team, I was surprised when I saw that one player - Lee Jung-hoo - was actually born in Nagoya, Japan!  When I started reading his biography, I saw the reason why (and went "Duh!") - Lee Jung-hoo is the son of former Haitai/Kia Tigers legend Lee Jong-beom, who spent a couple years playing in NPB with the Chunichi Dragons.  Which explains why the younger Lee was born in Nagoya - he wanted to be close to his mother who presumably was in Japan with her husband.

The elder Lee had a great career in Korea, making the All Star team 13 times.  His sophomore season of 1994 was one of legend - he led the league with a .393 average (second highest all time in the KBO) while stealing a league record 84 bases.  He led the league in hits and runs scored as well, helping him win the MVP award.  After five seasons with Haitai he joined the Dragons in 1998.  He didn't have a lot of success in Japan though and rejoined the Tigers (now owned by Kia) in mid-2001.  He pretty much returned to his performance levels from before he left for Japan, at least for the first few seasons after he returned.  He retired after the 2011 season and his number 7 was retired by the team.  His nicknames were "Baseball Genius", "The Korean Ichiro" and "Son Of The Wind".

2001 BBM #298

The younger Lee was drafted by the then-Nexen Heroes in 2016 and debuted with them in 2017 without having played for their farm team at all.  He won the Rookie Of The Year award that season.  He's won a couple Golden Gloves and was MVP of the playoffs in 2019.  His lowest batting average in his four complete seasons so far was .324 in his rookie season.  And, of course, his nickname is "Grandson Of The Wind".

2019 SCC KBO Collection 2 #SCCR2-19/080 All Star

2021 Korean Olympic Baseball Team

I wanted to follow up yesterday's post for the Samurai Japan Olympic team with a post for the Korean Baseball Team for the Tokyo Games.  South Korea is the defending Gold Medal baseball champion, having beaten Cuba in 2008.  They also participated in four other Olympic baseball tournaments, losing in the Bronze Medal game in both the 1984 and 1988 games, finishing last among all eight teams in 1996 and defeating Japan in the Bronze Medal game in 2000.

While Japan only has one former Olympian on their roster, Korea has three - Oh Seung-hwan, Kang Min-ho and Kim Hyun-soo - who were all on the 2008 team*.  The team's manager, Kim Kyung-moon, was also the manager of the 2008 squad.  At the other end of the experience spectrum, the Korean team also includes two rookie players (as does the Japanese team) - Lee Eui-lee and Kim Jin-uk.  Since I don't have any 2021 KBO cards yet, these two are missing from the below list of players.

* I partially attribute this to the fact that the Korean experience in the 2008 games was much more positive than the Japanese experience was

As I did for the Japanese team, I'm listing the roster by uniform number with the pitchers first, followed by the catchers, the infielders and the outfielders.  I used this roster on Korean Wikipedia for the names and the uniform numbers (although I'm not sure it is up to date - it only has 23 players listed.  Go Woo-suk is listed the roster on the Japanese Wikipedia page (which doesn't have the uniform numbers) so I'm adding him to the list but without his uniform number):

1 Ko Young-pyo
2017 SCC #SCC-01-KT06/N

11 Cho Sang-woo

2019 SCC KBO Collection #SCCR1-19/062

18 Won Tae-in

2019 SCC KBO Collection 2 #SCCR2-19/106 Signature

21 Oh Seung-hwan

2009 Konami WBC Heroes #W09R118

23 Cha Woo-Chan

2019 SCC KBO Collection 2 #SCCR2-19/145

32 Park Se-woong

2018 SCC KBO Collection 2 Red #SCCR-02R/006

55 Kim Min-woo

2020 SCC Premium #SCCP1-20/E07

61 Choi Won-joon

2020 SCC Premium #SCCP1-20/D09

? Go Woo-suk

2019 SCC Premium #SCCP1-19/158

25 Yang Eui-ji

2019 SCC KBO Collection2 #SCCR2-19/192 All Star

47 Kang Min-ho

2009 Konami WBC Heroes #W09R128

2 Oh Ji-hwan

2015 Superstar Baseball Season One #SBC1501-121-N

3 Kim Hye-seong

2019 SCC Premium #SCCP1-19/079

10 Hwang Jae-gyun

2010 KBO Game Set #AN-007

13 Heo Kyoung-min

2017 SCC #SCC-01-DS15/N

44 Oh Jae-il

2014 Superstar Baseball Season One #SBC01-022

50 Kang Baek-ho

2018 SCC KBO Collection #SCCR-01/239

53 Choi Joo-hwan

2018 SCC KBO Collection 2 Black #SCCR-02B/039

17 Park Hae-min

2014 Superstar Baseball Season Three #SBC03-085

22 Kim Hyun-soo

2009 Konami WBC Heroes All Tournament Team #W09A012

37 Park Kun-woo

2017 SCC #SCC-01-DS01/N

51 Lee Jung-hoo

2019 SCC Premium #SCCP1-19/088