BUSAN, South Korea – The Korean Baseball Organization's 2011 season is in the books, with Samsung coming out on top. It was a disappointment for many Lotte fans who had hoped for a championship this season. But one thing the Lotte fans seem to overlook is that it's not just them who are disappointed, but the players themselves take it even harder. Lotte starting pitcher Ryan Sadowski is no different.
Ryan Keith Sadowski was born in Miami, Florida in 1982. He was a standout in high school going on to play for the University of Florida before being selected in the thirteenth round of the 2002 draft by the San Francisco Giants farm system. It was a long road, but eventually he made his big league debut in 2009, throwing six scoreless innings in a 7-0 shutout over the Milwaukee Brewers.
"The Big Sadowski" went on to win his second start, throwing thirteen shutout innings over the course of the two games. The hot debut wasn't to last: Sadowski went on to lose his next four starts, allowing 14 earned runs in 15.1 innings pitched. Sadowski ended up pitching 28.1 innings in six games that year with a 4.45 ERA on top of 17 strikeouts. He was shipped back down to AAA Fresno, and eventually joined the Astros organization. This allowed him to contemplate a move overseas – a decision which led him to join the Lotte Giants.
According to Tom Dubberke writing for Bleacher Report, giving up on the MLB "might have been a risky move". But those who know Sadowski feel that there is still some fuel in the tank, and his goal of returning to "the show" are still evident.
We caught up with the little-known humorous side of Sadowski recently to ask him his thoughts on the season, his relationship with the team and his future plans.
Considering you were injured to start the season, what was your biggest adjustment this year?
How was the playoff mood in the clubhouse different from April and May?
The players on the team never really changed their attitude, we had been through this before. I think the biggest thing that you could notice was a change in the attitude with the coaching staff. It was their first year with Lotte and we were playing so bad (in April and May). I'm sure they felt responsible. I feel as the team played better, the staff was able to calm down and everything got easier.
How is life with a Korean manager?
I'm not married to him. I don't live with him. He doesn't cook me dinner. We don't tell ghost stories at night. I don't think life is any different with a Korean manager, but I think I understand your question.
On the field, he makes more moves and tries to find the hot hand. Off the field, the guy is a pretty cool customer. One thing that he has proven he can do is to get the guys to play hard and overcome.
How did Chris Bootcheck adjust to life in Korea? Did he come to you for advice?
Bootcheck is adjusting well. He eats Korean BBQ just about every night for dinner. That man can eat!!!
I showed him around his first few weeks here and his family came out about two months ago. I help him out whenever I can, but he is pretty low maintenance.
Why did you stop putting videos on YouTube?
I made a long video on YouTube explaining why I stopped making videos. It is in Korean and in English. I wasn't going to make videos that I didn't want to make.
Have attitudes with the club changed towards western players under manager Yang?
When I showed up for spring training this year, they told me I was not allowed to speak English in the clubhouse. I thought that was gonna be tough. Then, they told me my job was to hand wash every players jock strap after practice. I thought that was weird. THEN… I was forced to eat every meal out Kang Min-Ho's helmet. That's where I drew the line. There is no way I could eat that much food.
There has been no change.
What was the key to Lotte’s turn around?
It was a mixture of scoring more runs and giving up less runs.
How did it feel to make it to the second round?
It feels good, but our goal was to win a championship.
I get really aggravated when news is printed inaccurately. With social media being so big in Korea, a lot of people print news and articles that are totally inaccurate. My favorite example has to do with my nickname of "Dow." People call me "Dow" because my name is pronounced "Sah-Dow-Ski". One Internet blogger wrote that they call me "Dow" because my pitching is up and down, very similar to the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The writer deserves credit for creativity, but it is not correct.
Any thoughts on the power outage in the KBO this year? Was 2010 just “one of those years” for power or do you see a difference in batters this year?
I don't think there is nearly as much difference in the hitting as there has been in the pitching. Everybody is making adjustments constantly, and the pitchers were able to keep the ball in the yard better. The parks in the KBO are quite small. With the exception of Jamsil, every park is much smaller than in the States. Last year, the hitters were able to take advantage of balls up in the zone and drive them better. This year, pitchers kept the ball down and hitters weren't able to drive the balls as well.
Was there any pressure put on you in April to rush back to the mound? How does Lotte’s training staff compare to the trainers in the US?
When you are hurt, there is always pressure to get you back on the field. When your team is losing and poor pitching is an issue, there is more pressure. Therefore, there was a lot of pressure to get healthy fast.
Chinese medicine is used much more frequently and the staff here feels a really big responsibility if you get hurt. In the States, you take some pills or you get in a machine. It's a little less personal, too.
Are you into K-pop? Who got you to listen to it?
I am into K-music. Rain is the Usher of Korea. I like Usher, therefore I naturally gravitate toward listening to Rain. Watching a girl group music video is usually a four minute experience in which I can't blink or close my mouth.
I really appreciate bands like The Black Skirts, Nell, and Epic High.
Any thoughts on Hong Seong-heun’s wardrobe? He’s been known to wear some pretty far-out clothes.
You clearly don't go out in Korea much if you think Hong Seong-Heun's wardrobe is far-out. When understanding an athlete's style, you must first know that every athlete wants to be a musician, and every musician wants to be an athlete. I dress up like Elton John on days where I'm feeling artsy, and other days I dress like Andre 3000 from Outkast when I want to dress down. We all have our style.
By the way, do you know where I can find a green leopard print t-shirt with a half color and a purple top hat with a $ sign in calligraphy?
Who’s the worst dresser in the locker room?
I don't know, but it ain't me!
If you had to pick a teammate for “X-Factor” or “Korea’s Got Talent,”who would it be? Why?
I'd pick Jang Sung-Woo. I don't know if he's any good or not, but he isn't scared of looking foolish.
Do you think you will be back with Lotte next season?
I don't know if I'll be back with Lotte next year or not. Some of it depends on Lotte and some of it depends on me. I'm going to have to talk with Lindsay (my wife) and decide what is best for us. Lotte and I have had a great relationship, and I'm sure whatever happens will be done very professionally.
What are your off-season plans?
My off-season plans are going to be a little bit different than in the past. In Korea, I've gotten off to bad starts because Korean players come out of the gates like a ball of fire. If I go back to the States or Japan, I'm going to need to make a good first impression. This means I'm going to continue throwing throughout the off-season. Usually, I take two months off before starting again. This year, I'm going to throw two times a week during that two month period. I'm also going to really focus on getting my legs and core stronger. With my back injury, it really limited what I was able to do during the season.
Ryan Sadowski By the Numbers
2011 Lotte Giants – 11-8, 3.91 ERA, 79 K's
2010 Lotte Giants – 10-8, 3.87 ERA, 120 K's
2009 San Francisco Giants – 2-4, 4.45 ERA, 17 K's