Thursday, July 27, 2017

Here comes the shark!

Let's start with thanking Roger Bernadina, formerly of the New York Mets and most notably of the Washington Nationals, for being a good sport on this and a lot of other strange things since he arrived in Korea.

In fairness the strange half-man half-shark stuff started in the USA but Korea has taken it to heart. Maybe a bit too much...

Firstly, I have to be semi-serious before I can hope to explain a sombrero, a beach toy and a some hair removal. So bear with me if you are not the sporty type.

Here goes...

If you know anything about the MLB then you may know that Roger Bernadina has a bit of a reputation for making amazing outfield catches.

So much so that he got to be known as "The Shark" as opponents would never know if his hand would surface at the top of the wall to snatch a ball in much the same way that Jaws would take it's chance on any dangling limb. In fact, Bernadina was so committed to the cause that he has really roughed himself up making some catches... even willing to smash into walls and fences and dive on the gravel track.

Roger is also known for his ferocious turn of speed. For a long time, he topped the league on stolen bases. Here is an example of his speed in the MLB.

Oh and he is a bit of a slugger too..

That is literally as detailed as more sporting comments get and ever will do on this blog! So don't judge!

So... I always said that this is not a serious sports blog and it really isn't but here some context is necessary. Let's get on with the strange stuff.

Bernadina has been a great addition to the KBO and his all-round game has proven that the gamble to replace the hugely popular Brett Pill has paid off. Roger seems happy with how well things are going but you could forgive the slightly bemused look that he seems to wear.

As you may know, players in Korean Baseball usually have cheer songs. Some of them can be creative. (There will be an August blog on this.) Some range from classical music such as Hanhwa's use of Beethoven for Wilin Rosario, to western classics such as Hawaii 5.0 for Andy Burns of Lotte and of course many get K-POP songs, even foreigners, looking at you E E E E Evans of Doosan. But for Roger, poor Roger, they could have chosen any song for him. But he drew the shitty cheerleader and the odd choice of the Cartoons children's' hit Doo Dar!

So this is where that strange video that I posted last week comes in. Roger really has been stuck with the strangest of cheer songs. I have it on good authority from the "Cheer Kings" that it is not uncommon for players to complain about their cheer songs. But Roger is clearly a good sport, he has got on with this odd choice. He has even embraced it! When he wins MVP awards, he is known to sing and dance with the fans albeit while wearing his almost relentlessly bemused expression. The result of all of this? Unquestionable love and adoration from the KIA Tigers fans. The love that he receives is befitting of his talent and achievements in the KIA jersey but somehow he seems to be getting more love than anybody else in the league. Even more than legends such as Eric Thames or established legends on his own team such as Lee Bum Ho. Roger is clearly a nice chap and he has gone along with a lot since arriving in this country but he seems to be exciting fans in other ways. He seems to have some kind of X-Factor that magnetizes Korean affection. I have seen him get off the team bus and sign autographs for EVERYBODY. I have seen him smile and oblige when asked to do weird dances. I have seen him accept some strange gifts. I have also seen him dominate a game like nobody else in Korean Baseball history has done. I am not saying that he is the best player in KBO history or even this year. However, when he is on, he is ON!!! He can bat in 5 runs in one game. He can hit the same pitcher for 2 out of the park home runs within a 20 minute spell. He can steal bases with zero chance for his opponents and he can catch seeming certain home runs with loaded bases. All on the same night. He may not yet be as consistent as some of the stars of the past but if he can add that to his game... good god! 

Last month, Team Jokbal was at Jamsil stadium. Bernadina was even getting love from the opposition fans who were singing for him. With the exception of a couple of older ladies, it was a total love-in! These couple of old ladies (wearing LG shirts but were from Busan), had been racially abusing George and myself in the stands. Which is to be expected from people from Busan, sadly. Anyway, one of them was really trying to abuse Roger with the worst words! The worst! Happily, it ended pretty well. Bernadina hit a 2 run home run right at her. She was too far away from him to hear her horrid vitriol, but she got what she deserved. And no, somebody else got the home run ball, so don't worry! Thankfully, Roger had one of his unplayable games and went on to bat in a bunch of runs that night and make one of his trademark catches. The racist lady left and was booed by her own fans. Roger, on the other hand, was roundly cheered by home and away fans alike! Because class speaks louder than racism. 

Bernadina, has clearly settled in well and whatever happens from here, he will permanently be etched into KBO folklore. 

So Roger has signed a shark for Team Jokbal which we will be parading around all stadiums from now until the end of the season. If you see us, join in our shark conga!

Meanwhile... here are some more great baseball plays. I'll let you enjoy and decide where you think Roger Bernadina fits in all of these!

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