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Growing up and learning to play in South Korea

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Eric Sim, South Side Sox’s newest writer, gives his harrowing baseball origin story — with a wince and a smile

Drilled: With all the practice Sim was put through in South Korea, it’s a wonder he had enough focus to hit at all.

Editor’s Note: Early this season I started noticing tweets from a very insightful and funny Twitter feed, written up by an ex-pro named Eric Sim. I thought then that I’d love to see him stretch out and write longer than 280 characters. More recently, I thought, why shouldn’t that stretching out happen here on the pages of South Side Sox?

So, guess what? I’ve promised everyone surprises along the way, and there will always be more to come. But I’m happy to announce that Sim will be contributing his special brand of essays to our pages on a monthly basis.

Now, Sim has no connection to Chicago, but given that he not so long ago lived the same grinding lifestyle as so many of the White Sox prospects we are tracking every day here, he’s here to provide some illumination on that life. And my guess is he’s going to make you laugh — and think a little, too.

Just a heads-up, like the majority of professional athletes — even those with Bible verses on their Twitter bios — Sim is a bit salty. If colorful language offends your sensibilities, do yourself a favor and skip to our next article.

But now, without further delay, please give a warm welcome to our newest writer, straight outta the Great White Pacific Northwest, former catcher-turned-pitcher, Eric Sim!

Hi, my name is Eric Sim, a washed-up minor leaguer nobody who spent the majority of my career in glorious Low-A ball.

Here’s a little bit about me:

I was born in South Korea, played Little League baseball and some middle school baseball there, got beat up every single day by coaches because that’s just what they do down there, was over that shit so immigrated to Canada, and played high school ball in British Columbia.

After that, I went to JUCO in bumfuck nowhere, Kansas, for two years, was recruited to play at the University of South Florida in Tampa for a year, got drafted as a junior, signed the minor league a.k.a. slave contract, played from June 2010 through September 2015 as both a catcher and pitcher, and got released in November 2015 via phone call.

I didn’t have a job until March 2016, when I signed an Indy ball contract based on a bullpen video I made while throwing at Driveline baseball ( punched 95 mph ), got released by the team in two months because I walked a shit ton of hitters, played in a semipro league in Seattle while training at Driveline, last hitter I ever faced was during the NBC World Series where we played against the Kansas Stars (made up of all former big leaguers) and pitched to Jason Marquis (former big league pitcher, who was hitting for fun), threw one fastball, gave up a single up the middle, got pulled, flew back home, and hung up my cleats.

Yes, I have been through a lot.

Also, just a friendly reminder that English is my second language, my GPA is 2.5 on a good day, I took gerontology as a major at USF because I told my athletic advisor I hated school and just wanted to focus on baseball, so he picked gerontology out of the hat for me.

I have never written an article of any sort, so if you have a problem with that, just don’t @ me on Twitter (@esim3400 if you want to anyways).

So, let’s begin where everything started.

I was born in Busan, South Korea, where I lived until I was 13 before immigrating to Canada. I started playing baseball in Korea because I was a fat kid and my parents wanted me to exercise to lose some damn weight; it wasn’t my choice.

I started playing in Little League and was pretty good, so I joined a team where I had to take a bus an hour and a half to the field, one way. Apparently they were the best team in the area, but who gives a shit because, well, it’s Little League.

Now, playing baseball in South Korea is something else ... none of you will understand.

This was our schedule — and mind you, I was nine years old:

  • Take the bus for an hour and a half after school, arrive by 4 p.m.
  • Change and get ready for practice.
  • Warm up 20 laps on the field (30-45 minutes of jogging at a pretty fast speed, I wouldn’t be able to do half of that today).
  • Play catch.
  • Catch pens (I was a catcher, because I was the fattest one).
  • Take infield and outfield for an hour. (I was 9 years old. It was ridiculous.)
  • Batting practice.
  • Cool down (10 laps on the field).
  • Team meal (our parents all rotated on a daily basis to serve food for all the players — not volunteered, mandatory).
  • Go home (I lived the farthest away, so another hour and a half on the bus).
  • Get home by around 9 p.m. and cry, because I hated my life as a nine-year-old.
  • Sleep.
  • Wake up the next day, repeat.

One thing that kept me going was thinking, “Well, it can’t get any worse than this.”

Then middle school baseball happened.

This is what I got to experience in one year of middle-school baseball, before fleeing the country to get the fuck out of that system. My schedule went like this, no lie:

  • Show up to school at 7 a.m., in a baseball uniform.
  • Show up to class for attendance check, the only time we spend in the classroom (roughly 15 minutes).
  • Go to the locker room and eat as a team (again prepared by our parents — not volunteered, mandatory).
  • Warm up (countless laps on the field, the amount depending on what kind of mood the coach was in).
  • Play catch for at least an hour, during which coach will be right there yelling at you. If you fuck up and miss your spots, he will beat you up with the fungo he always carries.
  • Take infield and outfield for about an hour, and during that time, we got beat up the most. (What I mean by getting beat up: The coach calls you in, you run as hard as you can to him, get in the push-up position, he swings the fucking fungo and hits you on the hamstring area, you run back to your position.)
  • By then it’s noon, eat lunch.
  • Take a team nap for an hour in the locker room, where we kept blankets and stuff.
  • Back to the field from around 2-8 p.m., playing catch again, taking batting practice for hours and hours, doing team defense drills, and any extra work that coaches felt like, while also beating us up during all of it.
  • Eat dinner.
  • Go to a nearby sauna as a team, where all the fatties (including me, of course) had to get in the hottest tub (there are different tubs, at different temperatures) for 20 minutes to lose weight (I once passed out in the tub).
  • Get in the hottest sauna for 20 minutes, also to lose weight.
  • Go home ( I once again had to take a bus 45 minutes to get home by 10 p.m., and I used to get beat up so much that I couldn’t sit on the bus seat because it would hurt so bad, so I’d just stand the entire way home).
  • Get home and cry to my parents.
  • Sleep.
  • Get up at 6 a.m., repeat

Then we moved to Canada. I’d go to school from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., practice from 5-7 p.m. with the nicest Canadians (who were always smiling and having fun) on a nice grass field (it was all dirt fields in Korea), and went home.

Canada 1, South Korea 0.

Eric Sim played six seasons in the minors and touched Triple-A ball in 2012 (owns a career average of .500, oops). He’s the first Korean-Canadian ever drafted, and he doesn’t care if you’re not impressed by that, because he doesn’t really care about anything. He operates a hilarious and thought-provoking Twitter feed @ESim3400, so follow, if you want. When not dropping wisdom about his glorious days in the minor leagues, Sim currently manages a bar in small-town Canada, and makes a lot more money than he made playing baseball.