The Dodgers are a storied franchise, known for being one of the oldest MLB teams with 128 seasons played. Since moving from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1962, the team has brought the city countless sporting heroes, from the indomitable Sandy Koufax to World Series MVP Orel Hershiser.
Now in its 60th year in Los Angeles, the Dodgers are in the midst of a historic run, looking to break MLB’s record for the most wins in a season and end its 29-year World Series drought. Led by players such as 3 time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, the sweet-swinging rookie slugger Cody Bellinger and 2016 Rookie of the Year winner Corey Seager, this new group of Dodgers is set to bring glory back to one of the most renown sports teams in LA history.
However, for many Korean-American fans living in the city of LA, the team has an appeal beyond their prolonged success. In the past 50 years, the Dodgers have been renowned for their signing of international players, particularly Korean-born and other Asian players.
In 1994, pitcher Park Chan-Ho became the first Korean-born player in MLB after making his debut on April 8, 1994. A one time All Star with the Dodgers, his debut made the team extremely popular in Korea, where baseball is one of the country’s favorite sports. With the largest Korean-American population in America, the arrival of a Korean player in Los Angeles began what would be a long-lasting relationship between the Dodgers and the Korean-American community.
Over the next two decades, the Dodgers would build on their relationship with Korean fans by continuing to sign Korean players such as pitcher Ryu Hyun Jin, who inked a 6-year, $36 million contract in 2014. A superstar in South Korea, Ryu went on to put up two quality seasons with the Dodgers before undergoing rotator cuff surgery in 2014. After putting up just one start in the next two years, Ryu returned to the starting rotation in 2017 and is now part of a historically great Dodgers club that will be talked about for years to come.
The Dodgers have recognized their strong rapport with Korean-Americans and have shown that by hosting events such as Korea Night, which celebrates the Korean fanbase and its long relationship with the Dodgers. The Dodgers also began broadcasting games in Korean as well as English and Spanish in 2014 as a way of capitalizing on the success of Ryu Hyun-Jin and their relationship with Korean fans.
As a result of such player signings and special events, the Dodgers, throughout their recent history, have always held a special spot in the hearts of Korean fans around the globe. Now, with the recent success of this 2017 Dodgers team, the relationship between the franchise and its Korean base will likely be as strong as ever as fans root for a team that has been remarkable in more ways than one.