Fresh off the heels of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. making all the headlines during the MLB All-Star festivities with a thunderous display of power, another slugger with ties to Canada stole the show at the Korean version of the event.
London, Ontario’s own Jamie Romak, a former member of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, now plays for SK Wyverns in the KBO, and he had plenty of fun in the annual showcase event.
For starters, you need to know that the KBO does All-Star fun the right way. Entertainment and variety are the name of the game, and in the past the weekend has included competitions for bunting accuracy, fastest pitch by a non-pitcher, pitch accuracy, hitting accuracy, and a newly-added obstacle course.
Yes, you read that right, and on-field obstacle course.
Along with all those events there is still a traditional Home Run competition, and the 33-year-old Canadian took home the win.
Jamie Romak outslugged Jerry Sands to become this year's KBO Home Run Race winner pic.twitter.com/zpjih0Tohr— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) July 21, 2019
As mentioned, the KBO’s All-Star Weekend is all in the name of fun, and the players on the field are encouraged to think outside the box and really lean in to engaging with fans at the event.
As a result, several players in this year’s event put on costumes throughout the game. There was a factory worker (from the home run factory, of course), Usain Bolt, a team cheermaster, mascot head, and a fire fighter (which only a closer could wear), just to name a few.
Romak joined in on the fun, coming to the plate during his first at bat dressed as WWII General Douglas MacArthur, complete with a wooden pipe.
The KBO truly is a different style of baseball than North American fans are accustomed to. Bat flips fly on nearly any occurrence of solid contact, and the most important thing is that players show the fans a good time. In an interview with FanGraphs earlier this year, Romak admitted that it took some time to adjust to the new style, but he’s never had more fun on the field.
Korea has really taught me that, as baseball players, our number one purpose is to entertain the fans. Really, I had never thought of baseball like that until I came to the KBO. And then, once I saw the style of play – stuff like bat flips – and how interactive it was with the fans… It was uncomfortable for me in the beginning because I was never in that environment. When I came up in the States, it was very much like a keep your head down, run hard, swing and run, don’t celebrate, don’t show any emotion sort of thing. It’s really changed me for the better. I enjoy baseball more. I love playing in this environment. I certainly try to engage with the fans any time I have an opportunity to sign autographs. It’s cool – people know who you are when you walk around. On off-days, people approach you and want a picture, and I’m happy to do that. I’d say it’s a good relationship.
A former fourth-round pick of the Atlanta Braves, Romak looks like he’s really getting the hang of things in Korea. Last year he hit .316 with 43 home runs and 107 RBI, and has kept producing in his third year in the league, posting 21 homers and 71 RBI through 95 games this season.
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