Team Jokbal had a great day of jokbaling last weekend at Daegu Samsung Lions Park. In the process, we unknowingly had a person looking on and wondering what we were doing. That person was Alex Yoon, the Samsung Lions interpreter. At the time we didn't know that anyone except for some fans had taken any interest in what was going on between Team Jokbal, Darin Ruf, and Zach Petrick but sure enough there was another curious eye about on that day.
Alex Makes Contact
A day or two after getting our blog post up and sharing it on our @teamjokbal Instagram, we got a comment from Alex on the post. He said that he had seen us at the stadium and at the time he was curious about what we were doing. He later found out what we are doing, which is collecting items to auction to benefit local orphanages, and he was really impressed with what we are doing. We thanked him for his kind words and support because what we are working to do isn't possible without the generosity of the players but it's also impossible without the kindness and support of others in the baseball community.
The Lee Seung-yeop arm bands
A couple of days after that, Team Jokbal was pondering what to do with a pair of Lee Seung-yeop arm bands that had been given to us by Samsung fan (and new jokballer) Rodney. We knew that we could auction them as they were and they would bring a bit of money at the auction, but it would be even better if we could get the living legend, the "Lion King" Lee Seung-yeop, to sign them for us. However, we knew that it would be all but impossible for us to get them signed in person because of the distance we all live from Daegu and the fact that the season is quickly drawing to a close.
Then the thought came about that maybe Alex could help us out so we got in touch with him. With the same kindness that he had expressed in his Instagram comment, he said that he would work on getting them signed for us so we went postal and mailed him a package with the armbands inside. He couldn't make any guarantees because of the well deserved frenzy over the "Lion King" at the moment, but he assured us that he would try to get them signed at some point in the near future.
While we are not certain if he will be able to get them signed by the L36END, Lee Seung-yeop, we are still very happy to be able to work with guys such as Alex. He is a Jokbal at heart and we will be sure to buy a beer for him on our next trip to Daegu. Until then we will keep on jokbaling and getting prepared for the auction! Exciting things are just around the corner.
A new Verb - To Jokbal - The Team Jokbal Way
We had just been told to shut up and sit down by some Samsung fans annoyed by Marcus and George waving their Doosan Bears flag after another home run went against the Lions. It wasn't an aggressive warning but just a fair enough comment given that we were behind enemy lines. Out from the group that was seemingly displeased with us stepped a foreigner in a Samsung jersey. It turns out, he is a real nice guy. He was as curious as everybody tends to be about our strange outfits and rowdy behavior. Long story short, he was keen to help us. He wanted to be "Samsung Jokbal". Meet Rodney Hambel. Who it turned out had met Samsung legend Lee Seung Yeop earlier in the day. Rodney donated the gift that he got from the superstar and has since offered to help us in any way that he can. It seems a fitting time to answer the burning question.
"How do I Jokbal?"
So often people ask us "How do you Jokbal?" or "How can I Jokbal?" So I thought that I would enlighten you about the weird world of Team Jokbal by guiding you through our final long-haul trip of the season as we went to Daegu to meet with Samsung Lions' Darin Ruf, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The process usually involves contacting players online and then meeting up in Seoul for an in-person verification of us not being either a 15year old kid in a PC room or a 32 year old Korean female deluded into thinking she can marry a baseball player. Then we usually head to the players' home stadium and stand/sit in a parking lot waiting for the players to arrive. Simple. In fact, we now have a verb for the whole process: to jokbal or be jokbaling
This meeting was possibly our most straightforward jokbaling experience to date but it wasn't without its' own frustrations.
A change to the team jokbal routine
Samsung Lions Park is a nice new stadium. But it has kind of been built in farm land. It has a subway station and concession stands in the stadium but really nothing else. Usually, when we go jokbaling, the parking lot is busy with autograph hunters, stalkers and super fans. But this place was a ghost town! Nobody! I guess that is nice for the players but it was an ominous sign for Team Jokbal.
Firstly, fans had given up trying. These seems to be because the players enter in an underground VIP parking lot with no access allowed. So very little hope for folks to meet their heroes. This is also coupled with some over zealous security that seemed like it had been borrowed from Pyeongyang. This was the first stadium that presented this problem. Luckily, I had been in contact with Darin and I was sure that he would meet us and keep his promise.
Secondly, regular readers of the Team Jokbal Blog will know that we usually enjoy some beer while jokbaling. Sadly, with nothing around the stadium and nothing open in the stadium, we had no chance of refreshment. It would be our first stone cold sober jokbaling experience.
Darin Ruf - An Efficient Jokbal!
Darin Ruf was easy to deal with from the start. He read about us on instagram, he knew what I was talking about when I first met him and he was well prepared for us when he arrived at the stadium. All of the players have had good intentions over the year but they are busy guys who get asked a lot of things. We understand when we have to wait several hours because the coach has called a team meeting or the player has visiting family or needs treatment on a newly acquired injury. We are patient. It is part of jokbaling. We are usually happy to wait. We usually just grab a few beers, but in Daegu that wasn't looking possible.
Security had tried to move us on several times. We had been chased around Lions park with varying levels of friendliness. But we had been told that Darin "Walks to the stadium and goes in by the ticket box." To be honest, it was a tip that we were suspicious of. However, after about an hour, Darin showed up in exactly that spot. Thank God! This seemed like it was going to be a fast encounter.
Darin told me that he would return in 20 minutes. Sometimes these 20 minutes have turned into 2 or 3 hours due to factors beyond the players' control. But bang on 20 minutes later, Darin returned with an armful of goodies. He had also spoken with teammate Zach Petrick, formerly of the Cardinals in MLB. Zach also gave what he could and also seemed to be a good guy. Both players gave boots and hats. Ruf also added one of his bats and a pair of batting gloves.
Thanks to both guys! Two good new Jokbals for Team Jokbal!
The Team Jokbal Stadium Verdict
Samsung Lions' Park is a newer stadium. In fact it was only opened last season and for the most part Team Jokbal enjoys trips there. This time we treated ourselves to "Pub Zone" seats. For $15 you get a game ticket that comes with a free craft beer. The beers are about $5 at the bar so it works out as a $10 ticket. What makes the deal even sweeter, is that you get a $10 voucher to spend at the pub for each home run that is hit into the "pub zone". Guess what happened! Yep, it happened. We got our vouchers so essentially our tickets were free. The beer is decent but nothing special.
We were happy with our seats and the entertaining pitching shitfest of a game but we weren't happy about the pub food.
Usually at other stadiums, we just wonder into the local area and grab dinner but because this stadium is in the middle of nowhere and because we had our pub vouchers, we were forced to eat in the stadium. Our advice is to basically avoid the stadium pub. I had a cheese-steak in a soggy hot dog bun with 5grams of meat while George and Mark were told that there were no sausages for hot-dogs and were forced to order a "pizza" that came without a base or bread. The french fries were under cooked on all orders too.
A good Day for Team jokbal overall
So overall it was a great day. Lots of good new things for our charity auction thanks to Darin Ruf and Zach Petrick. Some excellent game seats and an entertaining game. We also made some new friends and may soon be able to tell you about a new team member! Just bring your own beer if you want to do some jokbaling and don't eat in the D First Pub!
Thank you for reading and hope that you can spread the word of the work and adventures of Team Jokbal and how we are trying to help disadvantaged kids.
more about Darin Ruf
New Team Jokbal player Darin Ruf has been in excellent form this season for Samsung Lions despite a difficult start. Here are some of his highlights.
Darin Ruf Phillies
Team Jokbal has been unable to make a trip down to Sajik in Busan to catch Lotte on their home turf this year. We have tried several times to make our way down there (5 hour one-way trip for most of us) this season but weather and unforeseen scheduling conflicts always left us hanging out to dry.
The Lotte Helmet
Last Sunday (09/09/2017), we were finally able to take possession of a Lotte Giants helmet, but with a few modifications. Once a shiny, new, unremarkable black baseball helmet bearing the Lotte Giants emblem, it had been transformed into a masterpiece bearing brilliant white signatures of Giants stars and living legends. It's a beauty and sure to bring some serious coin at the charity auction. Bearing the signatures of Korean players such as Lee Dae-ho, Kang Min-ho, Choi Jun-seok, Son Ah-seop and Son Seung-lak, the helmet has come to life. However, the helmet doesn't just have Korean players. It also bears the signatures of Josh Lindblom, a great guy and great pitcher, and Andy Burns, a star player that joined Lotte this season.
The Josh Lindblom Story
Now back to the story and how this masterpiece came into being. After experiencing the setbacks earlier in the season during our attempts to make a trip to Sajik, Team Jokbal began to wonder if their glorious drive to collect items from all teams for the charity auction would come up dry. We are not a group that gives up easily, nor are we a group that wants to let down the orphanages that we will be donating to this winter so we took matters into our own hands and got into contact with Lotte Giant pitcher, Josh Lindblom, and posted a blank Lotte Giants helmet to him.
Josh, a guy with a heart of gold and a great pitching arm, had rejoined the Giants at the end of July after having to leave them earlier in the year due to health issues with his daughter. After taking care of matters back in the States and with his daughter's health improving, Josh was able to come back to Lotte after the release of his replacement Nick Additon.
Back to the Helmet and setbacks
But once again, I digress so let's get back to the helmet and story. After posting the helmet to Josh, I was able to contact him again and let him know that Team Jokbal would be making their way to Suwon Stadium to catch a game between the Giants and the Wiz and we would be more than happy to meet him there and pick up the helmet at the game. With sleep still in ours eyes, we made early departures from our homes to go to Suwon Stadium to collect the helmet, as well as some promised items from kt Wiz players. We were able to easily catch the Wiz guys and pick up some great items from them. However, the Lotte setbacks began again.
Setback #1 and overcoming
On our way over to the bus area to catch Josh upon arrival, we were just a bit late and ended up missing the players exiting the buses. Feeling a bit down for not catching them upon arrival, we didn't give up because we were sure that we would be able to catch him inside the stadium. We also know the kind of guy that Josh is so we were sure that he would come through inside the stadium. After deciding that it was time to pack it in and head into the stadium, we went over to the car to put the kt Wiz items away. While walking by the outfield gate we saw Josh in the outfield talking with players. We continued on to the car and came back in hope of catching him there. Upon our return to the gate, Josh spotted us and came over for a brief chat and to sign for fans. We shook hands, thanked him for his kindness, and arranged to meet him inside the stadium.
The Security, Setback #2, & overcoming
We headed into the stadium and went over to the area where he was standing and he asked us to make our way over to the "exciting zone" area next to the dugout so that he could pass the helmet to us. We headed over to the area where he asked to meet and were immediately held up by security. They told us that we couldn't enter the area because our tickets were not for that area. We kept reassuring them that it was okay and we were only going there for a couple of minutes to catch Josh, whom we know, and then we would return to our seats. They keep reassuring us with the "no" and arms crossed in an "x" that we would not get there.
A few seconds later Josh reappeared from the dugout with the helmet and we were still dealing with security. We pointed to him and told them to look and see that he was bringing a helmet to us and that we were just going to pick it up and come back out. Josh even got in on the action motioning and asking for them to let us down, but they were having none of it and continued with their string of "no." Then Josh told us to just meet him over at the bullpen and grab it there.
We made our way back over to the bullpen area and were met by security once again. They were asking us to move away from the rail and bullpen and return to our seats. At this point we just had to ignore them and tell them no and that we were meeting our friend Josh to collect a helmet from him. It also helped that we were standing face to face with Josh and talking with him by this point. We had a bit longer chat at this point and once again thanked him for his kindness. Before leaving him and returning to our seats, he also said that he would get some more things together at the end of the season and get them to us for the auction.
Nothing stops Team Jokbal & Josh Lindblom
While we once again experienced some minor delays due to security (it's happened on several occasions), we had accomplished what we had set out to accomplish when leaving our homes at 6:30 am. We had possession of the Lotte Helmet and it's all thanks to a wonderful guy named Josh Lindblom. He's a great guy with a big heart and we are happy that he was able to help us out. If you would like more information about Josh and to see how he helps others, be sure to take a look at his non-profit, The Josh Lindblom Foundation, at the following:
"You can't sit here!" was the instruction from a Hanwha Eagles employee who was keen to remove undesirables from the player entrance.
This was the exact moment that I pretty much gave up hope of being able to attract Hanwha players to work with the Team Jokbal charity. I feared that despite a previous diplomatic meeting with Wilin Rosario in Incheon 2 weeks earlier, I had failed on this part of the mission. I felt awful for precisely 10 seconds. These 10 seconds seemed like an eternity. I seemed to have had enough time to think about how to break the news to my Team Jokbal team mates and how to sincerely think about my apology to my good friends Andrew and Camille who had accompanied me on this mission. However, the whole world was about to change. Thankfully!
So what led to those crucial 10 seconds?
Before that moment, I had been at Hanbat Park patiently waiting for Wilin Rosario to show up and honor the promise he made to me in Incheon 2 weeks earlier. Wilin had long been stated as a priority target of Team Jokbal, partly out of respect for his talents and partly because we feel that his items will raise a lot of money at the charity auction. This was also my first meeting with my oldest friends in Korea for over 6 months. They had been at home. I had missed them awfully and I had rather hoped that our reunion had been at a nice restaurant while catching up over some beers. Not to be. Instead our reunion happened to be unreasonably early on a Saturday morning in a busy and humid parking lot filled with autograph hunters and short on places to sit down. Both Andrew and Camille will identify as Hanwha fans and I think that it is fair to say that Andrew is becoming very attached and passionate about his beloved Eagles, so they were quite keen for a chance to meet star hitter Rosario.
We waited and met some of the local fans who informed us that Wilin would arrive soon but don't hold up hope was the repeated message. The ardent fans and dedicated autograph hunters had no memories of Wilin signing anything for anyone. I assured them that I had spoken to him and had felt that he was a good man. Despite their stories, I retained hope. But time kept passing and it really started to feel that he may have slipped through our fingers. The one that got away. Then hope! A scooter appeared with the imposing figure of Rosario riding it. He immediately recognized me and called out to me. "Hey my man! I will see you in a little bit!" he cried out. The regulars started to believe that they might just be about to meet their hero. They started asking us if we could get him to sign things for them. We made no promises. Firstly, we were in no position to make promises. Secondly, having seen how intrusive Korean super fans can be, I can appreciate why players try to take avoiding measures. There are some messed up people out there and some interesting stories!
Anyway, hope is a dangerous thing! Now we knew he was there and seemingly willing to meet, we dared not go to the bathroom nor go to get lunch. We had had a few beers at this point and it is fair to say that for all of us a bathroom trip was desirable. We were all starving. Non of us had eaten breakfast. I felt embarrassed at what bad day I believed my friends may now be having. Camille thankfully volunteered to go to McDonalds to pick up lunch. That improved the mood. Andrew and I prowled multiple VIP and player entrances in the hope that Wilin would appear soon. Time kept ticking. I was feeling progressively worse.
Then came a point where we pretty much gave up. We got more beers and decided to sulk in the shade outside the VIP lounge and get on with our day. This is when the defining 10 seconds, the moment of truth was to come our way.
The Defining Moment
We were told that we could no longer sit where we were sulking. But suddenly Camille tried to explain what we were doing and it seemed to be getting some traction but it didn't raise my spirits as I had dealt with so many security personnel with a Hitler complexes and egos the size of the grand canyon. Out of the blue, a question was asked. The answer would shape the day and success would depend on it.
We were asked "Are you Rosario's friends?" While we didn't straight up lie, we did skirt the honest truth... a lot. Instead we offered a picture of me with Rosario and insisted that he agreed to me. We didn't lie but we knew that we were happy for the poor lady to make her own assumptions based on sketchy intel. To our mutual amazement she invited us to come in. Now we had to play it cool and make a new plan.
A Second Chance - The Player's Lounge
Now we were in the player's lounge. Us! 3 random people with plastic cups full of cheap beer. What should we do? Take our second chance!!!
We kept our composure as we watched lots of Hanwha heroes wonder past us in their underwear. We saw players flirting with kit ladies and groupies. We saw a lot of players eating apples and playing cellphone games. We had to resist any urge to get star struck or act impressed. We had to resist getting any balls or jerseys signed. We were drinking in what really felt like the last chance saloon... well VIP lounge.
Again we waited. And then another hero came forward. Arise Son Gwang Min, Hanwha 3rd baseman and friendly eccentric chap. Finally, a player came to talk to us, we no longer looked out of place. Son read our Korean Team Jokbal notice and decided to help. He signed balls and then tracked down the player interpreter for us. The interpreter in turn agreed to bring Rosario to us. Song got back to his cellphone games and became a keen observer of what happened next.
Finally a roar of "Hey! What's up my man?" boomed down the walkway from the locker room. It was the unmistakable presence of Wilin Rosario. After a brief chat, Wilin went back to the locker room and promised to return with the goods. He said it would be 5 minutes. It turned out to be a bit longer but we no longer cared. We all now wore ear to ear grins. I no longer felt that burden of shame but now a deep feeling of gratitude to Andrew and especially Camille for keeping the faith. That faith was rewarded as 3 fully kitted out players approached us with sack full of goods. Rosario had coerced his teammates Alexi Ogando and Carlos Villanueva to help. Although Carlos and Alexi seemed confused, Wilin got them in order. There was little time remaining for explanations as they were being ordered to fan a event. I guess it is hard to explain in Spanish that some British guy will give you some Korean pig feet for your shoes and it will help charity but Rosario managed to do it and for that Team Jokbal is forever grateful to our new recruit who went on to have a decent game after being introduced in the 6th inning due to recent injuries.
Team Jokbal is also grateful for the help, dedication, time and diplomatic work from Andrew and Camille Ignacio. You deserve to be at least honorary Jokbals from this day forward! Sorry, yet again, about all the waiting!
So finally, we have "The Hanwha Heroes Haul". We will try our best to get as much as we can to help the children!
As action heats up in the KBO with teams trying to maintain their leads or jump ahead of others before the end of the regular season, the action for Team Jokbal has also heated up and with it comes some more stories of kindness (and humor) on the part of players and teams. At the start of the year we had an idea in mind of what we wanted to do, but we never expected it to go as far as it has. The only way that it has gotten this far is from the kindness of players and teams.
Yesterday I woke up at 6 am and started my trip to Suwon kt Wiz park to catch up with the Wiz crew and Lotte Giants crew. While sitting and waiting on the Wiz guys (Donn Roach, Ryan Feierabend, and Mel Rojas Jr.) some great things started to happen. We were greeting players as they came by and getting the occasional smile from the other fans that were there waiting. Around 9 or 9:30 Donn was the first to appear and while chatting with him Ryan also came in. We stood and had a nice conversation about how everything had been going with collecting the items (both guys were already aware of everything and we had previously spoken with Donn). They both kindly said they would go inside and grab some things and bring them back out. A few minutes later they reappeared with some awesome stuff which included one of Donn's jerseys, his warmup, one of Ryan's hats, and Yoon Suk-min's kt Wiz travel bag.
We chatted a bit more and snapped a few pictures and they headed back inside. Shortly after, Yoo Han-joon came walking by and we stopped him to show him what we were doing and he kindly and in perfect English might I add said that he would go take a look and see if he had anything for us. I told him that we would just be sitting around just outside if he had anything to give.
Not long afterward another very kind young Korean guy comes out of the locker room with some items. This guy was James. I figured he was just being kind (which he is very kind) and telling me his English name to make me feel comfortable. I wasn't aware of who he was at the time, but since there are a lot of young players that I am unfamiliar with I thought he was one of them. He said he had been in the locker room with Donn and the other guys and there was some mention about what we were doing and he wanted to bring some things out for us. He brought our a couple of pairs of batting gloves and a t-shirt. We talked for a while and he was really happy to help out and happy to hear the story about what we were doing to help out kids at orphanages. His English was excellent, but I didn't really think much of it because I have run across more than a few Korean players that speak English really well, so once again I just thought he was one of the young Wiz players that I was unfamiliar with. I asked him to sign the things he brought out and we snapped a picture and he went back inside.
While waiting on Mel to come through, I took a bit of time to try to identify James based on his photo and his signature, but I wasn't having much luck. I wasn't too worried though because I knew that I would eventually identify him and before I knew it Mel had appeared and stopped off for a chat. He said that he would check is locker and get some stuff back out to us a bit later. After that we continued to hang around and wait just in case anyone else came back out with things.
Right around 11:30 we made our way over toward the Lotte bus arrival area to catch up with Josh Lindblom, but just before we got there all of the buses had parked and all of the players were inside. We back and grabbed the Wiz items that we had collected and took them over to put them in the car. On the way back through we were able to catch the attention of Josh on the field and he came over and said that he had the Lotte Giants helmet that we sent to him signed and in the dugout. We headed on inside the stadium to catch up with him and grab the helmet.
After getting inside, we headed over to Josh and he asked us to go over and meet him by the dugout to grab the helmet. However, that didn't quite work as planned since security stopped us and wouldn't let us down near the field. Even after Josh reappeared with the helmet and was trying to tell them to let us down to get it, they denied our entry. Not a cool move by them, but we have become used to the security run-ins and Josh asked us to just meet him over at the bullpen. We walked over and he passed us the helmet and we were having a bit of a chat when security tried to intervene once again. At that point we just ignored the security and told them that Josh knows us and he is helping us out. After all, it's kind of hard for security to tell a player that they can't talk with fans. We were able to express our gratitude to Josh and our happiness that he is back in the KBO with his daughter doing well. He is a great guy and he said he would try to round up some more things for us at a later date.
After all of that was settled our job for the day was mostly done and we took the helmet to the car and came back to watch the game. During the game, still puzzled over the mysterious James, who we thought may have been Jung Hyun (#7) or possibly the Wiz interpreter, we had a great time cheering along and telling stories. We were also sure to cheer on Jung Hyun (as James) every time he came to the plate.
After the game we headed out to catch Mel to grab the items from him and hopefully answer the question of "who is James?" After a bit of a wait we saw Donn come out and then Mel. Mel brought us out one of his hats and a warmup and was immediately surrounded by fans. He passed the items off to us and stood there signing for all of them. He's a really great guy and he loves and takes care of the fans. They also really love him.
Meanwhile I slipped over to Donn while he was also signing for a huge group of fans to get to the bottom of the James situation. I showed him the photo and he said James is their interpreter, to which us Jokballers had a big laugh because we were so confused about who he was.
At the end of the day, we had a great time and got some great items for the auction. The kindness of players (and interpreters) such as Donn, Mel, Ryan, James and Josh always inspires us to try harder for the kids. These guys are great and nothing that Team Jokbal is doing would be possible without their support. They have all been very kind and welcoming and we can't wait for the auction so that we can show how their donations have helped kids in South Korea. It's gonna be a great event and it's all possible because of you guys! Thanks for helping out!
Another Dino joins Team Jokbal This past Saturday 09-02-17 Team Jokbal made the trip to Masan Baseball Stadium for the second addition to the charity from an NC Dino. This contribution came to us from Xavier Scruggs. It was great to finally catch up with Xavier after originally contacting him about what we are trying to do. We got a chance to meet with Xavier after the game down next to the dugout. Although he did not play in the game that night he was still able to take the time and meet us which were great.
We were able to meet and have a quick conversation with Xavier and after I could not speak more highly about him as a humble and down to earth guy. He graciously was able to give us two of his pro model bats one that was game used the other not and also he gave of a pair of his own used batting gloves. All of the items that he contributed he signed for us right there in person next to the dugout.
It is great to see another contribution come Team Jokbal’s way from the Dinos. This charity would be nothing without the players and their contributions and we are eternally grateful.
Check back often for more updates from Team Jokbal.
A group of guys enjoying the KBO and raising money for orphanages.