It’s a scene that has permeated not only Korean baseball, but also the country’s warm and welcoming culture. Kiwoom Heroes foreign pitcher Ariel Hurtado (27) made a warm and unfamiliar offer that even veteran drivers who have been driving the Heroes’ team bus for more than 10 years have never experienced before.메이저놀이터
Hurtado, a native of Panama, joined Kiwoom ahead of this season after playing for the Texas Rangers and New York Mets in Major League Baseball, signing a contract totalling $1 million (approx. KRW 1.3 billion). Since spring training, the reviews have been favourable. On the mound, he was the only player on the team to draw a walk in a simulated game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and in the clubhouse, he was a shy rookie who quietly approached his teammates, memorising their numbers and names.
That same calm demeanour served him well in the regular season. With seven quality starts (tied for second in the league), he went 3-6 in 10 games with a 2.97 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 60⅔ innings. Unfortunately, his poor run support (fifth in the league) has made him one of the league’s worst pitchers despite his good numbers. On the 26th, he suffered his sixth loss of the season despite posting a quality start plus (7 innings, 2 runs or less) against Gocheok Lotte.
However, he didn’t seem to mind. “It was a bad result, but that’s part of baseball. It was a positive thing that I was able to finish the innings quickly and go a lot of innings,” he said. “They said they felt sorry for me. But that’s okay because baseball is a team sport and winning is out of my control. I was just grateful that I didn’t make any mistakes that day,” he said in support of his teammates who have been struggling of late.
His warmth is not limited to the team. During last weekend’s trip to Gwangju, Hurado served beef to the three drivers of the team’s bus, including interpreter Lee Jo-il and Lee Myung-jong, 21. The cheerful Lee Myung-jong is said to have a great chemistry with the quieter Furado. Furado is also a self-proclaimed best friend who confidently says, “My man, Manito.”
Interviewees Oh Byung-ho (coach and club officials) and Ahn Sang-jin (pitchers) have been driving the bus for more than 10 years. But it was the first time for Oh, who joined the team in 2010, and Ahn, who joined in 2013, that foreign players were seated separately.
“I had heard from my interpreter that Furado sometimes serves meals to the bullpen catchers,” Oh said. But it was during the Daegu trip in early May that Furado first mentioned that he wanted to eat with us. I thanked him verbally, but then he actually called me from Gwangju (for the next trip to the provinces) and asked me if I wanted to join him on Saturday (20th). I thought it was the interpreter’s idea, but it was Furado’s first suggestion.”
They didn’t have a deep conversation because they couldn’t understand each other, but it was enough. “We’ve been doing this for more than 10 years, but it’s the first time a foreign athlete has asked to eat with us,” they said. “We didn’t have a lot of conversation, but he was receptive to our jokes and the atmosphere was good, and he really liked the beef and beer,” they smiled. “It helps our job to know the atmosphere of the squad. But it’s true that it’s not always easy to approach the players because we’re older and in a different area, so I’m grateful for Furado’s gesture and it’s a big help. Naturally, I want him to stay healthy and do well, and I’m rooting for him.”
Ahn Sang-jin, who drives the pitcher’s bus, said, “Our team, the pitcher’s bus, is always very quiet on the bus. They don’t get loud and boisterous when they win a game, except for when Chung Chan-heon won his first game recently.” “The same goes for Hurado. He’s very polite and calm for his age. He’s very quiet, but I remember him always saying hello and thank you in Korean when he gets on and off.”
Furado added, “The drivers always do a lot for the team, including driving the buses until late in the morning. I’m always grateful for that, so I took this opportunity to treat them to a meal,” he said, trying to downplay the gesture.
The 27-year-old pitcher was excited to see Korea after hearing about it from former teammate Christian Betancourt (NC) during spring training in February. When we met up with him three months later, he was impressed with the country’s security and culture. When asked what it was like, he said, “It’s not dangerous to walk around at night. You can walk down the street and not get shot,” he joked, “but what impressed me the most was the culture of respect. It was nice to see people treating each other as individuals.”
He’s also adjusting to the unfamiliarity of Korean baseball. “The KBO is very different from the US,” he says. In the U.S., most people don’t swing at bad pitches, but Korean hitters make contact with bad pitches and foul them off anyway. They also use a lot of strategies to lure hitters with dropped pitches. “My goal is to stay healthy and play a full season,” he said, “so I can pitch as many innings as possible and help the team. I want to pitch as many innings as possible and help the team win.”