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!
The last weekend for Team Jokbal was a great one as we took to Jamsil Stadium early in the morning to catch some players about collecting items for the charity auction. We had previously spoken to Henry Sosa (LG Twins) about picking up a few items and we had also arranged to meet Michael Bowden (Doosan Bears) once again to pick up a few items.
While waiting at the stadium, we were able to catch Henry and he went in and grabbed some things for us from the locker room. Shortly after, we were able to catch up with David Huff (LG Twins) and have a short chat with him about what we are working to do, which is to collect signed player-used gear that will be auctioned off in December with the proceeds going to kids in orphanages and less fortunate areas in Korea. Without hesitation and with the same kindness we have gotten from all players thus far, Dave said that he was in and would be happy to give us some items for the auction.
Over the next few days, we were able to get in touch with Dave once again and he let us know that he would leave a box of things with security so that we could pick it up on Wednesday night. After work on Wednesday, we were able to swing by Jamsil to grab the box and catch a Lotte vs. Doosan game. We picked up the box after a little confusion by the staff. I guess it could be confusing since it was a Lotte vs. Doosan game and there were 2 guys there, wearing Doosan jerseys, asking to pick up a box from David Huff of the LG Twins. I guess the funniest part came just before the security guard went to get the box. He looked at me strangely and said, "You're Huff's friend? Did he leave you tickets?" A few seconds later he returned with the box and we headed over to put it in the car.
We didn't really take a look in the box until we returned home that night and what we found was amazing. He had hooked us up with a home and away signed jersey, a signed icing shirt, and a nice body length LG jacket. They are some really great items and we a confident that they will help raise a lot for charity.
In closing, there is little more to be said about Dave other than he is a great and welcoming guy that's a great pitcher and ambassador for his team and the KBO. He really cares about the community and the sport and that can easily be seen from his contribution.
This is might be a big moment for Team Jokbal, maybe one we never really expected to happen. Something we aimed for but never really believed would happen. I still can't believe that it has happened.
In case you haven't heard yet, Team Jokbal has finally managed to collect items or received pledges from all KBO member teams.
The feat was finally achieved by a determined weekend of campaigning. On Saturday, an 8hour camp out at Jamsil stadium led to LG delivering their goods and a truly special item being donated by Michael Bowden and his Doosan team mates. (Read Andrew Dunham's soon to be published contribution about that day.) All I will say is that left us with 2 teams to go. Hanhwa and SK! Guess what? Those 2 were set to play each other the next day at the Happy Dream Park in Incheon.
Well fate is a beautiful thing. As luck had it, my fiancé (then my girlfriend), won 2 VIP tickets for that game earlier in the week. However, she knew nothing of my marriage proposal planned for Saturday night. So after a 10 hour stake out, a game, a marriage proposal and an engagement celebration that went on till 3am, Min and I headed to the Happy Dream Park.
Initially, the day seemed destined to end in disappointment. An underground VIP parking lot seemingly blocking any chance to talk to players. Not to be deterred, I bought some Cass and decided to explore. With beer as my guide, I managed to find the underground player entrance. but only to find out that all the players had arrived. Disaster!
But then, up popped the Hanhwa team bus and came an encounter with our No1 target, Wilin Rosario, the Hanhwa home run hitting machine.
Wilin is a big dude and a powerful hitter but nothing prepares you for just the softly spoken gentleman that he is... oh I forgot, he was recently caught reading a book in the middle of game that he was playing in. He immediately walked up to me and shook my hand and offered his help with our cause. Extremely nice guy! Success!
Despite the positive experience with Rosario, there was still a feeling of disappointment. Failure even. 1 team remained and I had failed, blown my chance. I felt that we would go in with a glaring omission from our work. Completeness was a requirement. No matter how much other players and teams had given us, the inability to get anything from SK felt like a real failure.
To celebrate the engagement news Blake Sibley and Rae Lanczak came and joined us to drink Maekguli before the game. Still on a huge high from the night before and with good friends I was quickly able to get over this disappointment. However, the maekguli may have fueled what happened next.
Something had to be done!
Luckily our VIP seats afforded us a chance. A long shot but enough of a chance. I was determined to take advantage. Their location made one last crack possible.
Struggling to see any other options, being reasonably drunk, I decided to take a risk. I took advantage of a change of security in the sixth inning stretch and ran to the edge of the dugout. I shouted and got the attention of Trey Hillman. He initially looked pissed that I dare bother him during a game. I don't blame him! I really didn't want to do things this way. It isn't the Team Jombal way! We try not to interrupt too much and let everybody get on with their job. However, in this case I saw no better option. I am sorry but I don't regret it! Hillman agreed to meet at the end of the game and it looked like the mission may finally be accomplished.
Coach Hillman kept his word, no matter the drunk jackass I appeared to be and he went into the locker room and fetched us a jersey and another box that he had signed. I was on the bus home when I realized that it was a bible. Yes! A signed bible! Definitely the most unusual item in our stockpile but still very much appreciated! Thanks Coach Hillman!
So now Team Jokbal has a pledge or has received some kind of item from every single team. As long as some players and teams keep their word, we will have succeeded. We aren't tempting fate yet but given how well things have gone, we are very optimistic of being able to raise a lot of money for good causes. We will continue to pick up what we can for our auction as that will raise us more money but for now it is great knowing that we have reached all teams. 1 more month of regular season to go, the collection grows
Team Jokbal was fortunate enough to be able to go to the Doosan Bears vs. KT Wiz game last night (July 5, 2017) and catch up with Michael Bowden for a few minutes before the start of the game. I was meeting him to get him to sign the jersey that he had previously given to us for the auction and to get a Jamsil Stadium print signed by some players for the auction. To my surprise, he came out to meet me with a signed Dustin Nippert jersey. He let me know that Dustin was more than happy to help out by contributing.
Dustin is well known within the community for helping out kids and he even provides tickets to groups of kids to come to the games once a month. A truly great and generous guy that does all that he can to help the community and the kids.
In addition to getting the signed Nippert jersey, I was able to talk a little more with him about what Team Jokbal is working to do and get him to sign his jersey. I was also able to get the print of Jamsil Stadium, done by my friend Andy, into his hands to get some players to sign it. I will be picking the print up from him at a later date. Once it is signed, I will also be posting about it.
Players like Dustin and Michael are the reason that we can do what we are doing and we are honored to be able to work with such great guys! Thanks guys!
Check back often for more updates from Team Jokbal.
Since we just got the blog up and running this week, I am going back and filling in some of the stuff about our Jokbal Campaign to raise money to buy sports equipment for kids. Now that most of you have hopefully read the first post explaining how Team Jokbal and the Jokbal Campaign came about, I am here to talk about some of the items that we have so far and pledges that we have from some KBO players.
The first person to donate to us was Michael Bowden, a pitcher for the Doosan Bears. On the weekend of April 22~23, me and a couple of other Team Jokbal members made our way out to SK Happy Dream Park (aka Munhak Stadium) to catch a couple of games of the SK Wyverns vs. Doosan Bears series. For a couple of months prior to this weekend we had been working social media and trying to get in touch with some of the KBO players to explain what we were doing and hopefully get some donations or game used gear to auction to raise funds for purchasing equipment for kids.
Finally, on April 23rd, the work paid off and we got our first item from Michael Bowden. As Michael was walking across the field, near the dugout, I let out a "What's up Big Mike?" He turned to me and happened to recognize me from previous social media posts and said "Are you the guy that's trying to get the jerseys for kids?" In a lot of joy, I said "that's us" and he told me to hold on for a minute. He made his way over to the Bears dugout and came back with one of his jerseys and handed it across the netting.
It was great and we were really excited to finally have some players realizing who we were and what we were working to do. I have been to many games and that will always be one of the most memorable games for me. That one and the night of Michael's no-hitter when I got so excited that I took the subway in the wrong direction and missed my bus home and had to stay at a motel for the night.
I have said it a few times before on my other blog and in person, but I will say it once again. Thanks, Mr. Bowden! You are a great guy with your heart in the right place. We couldn't achieve what we are working to achieve without players such as you!
A group of guys enjoying the KBO and raising money for orphanages.