Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu prepares to bat against the San Francisco… (Michael Nelson / EPA )
And welcome to American baseball.
Hyun-Jin Ryu had himself something of mixed start in his major league debut Tuesday night, except in the sixth inning when he batted.
There was nothing mixed about the reception from the Dodger Stadium crowd when he bounced out softly to third and proceeded to run down the first base like he had snail envy.
First game or not, the crowd of 45,431 let Ryu know exactly what it thought of his effort.
Boos rained down on him.
Ryu heard it all loud and clear, and understood the reasons.
“It was embarrassing,” he said through an interpreter. “I should apologize for it.”
In this country, great effort from professional athletes is not only admired but expected. An undersized, modestly talented but hustling Jamey Carroll can be your team MVP. A superstar who demonstrates modest effort can be booed.
“Now I know I have to run a lot harder,” Ryu said. “But as soon as I hit the ball, I knew it wasn’t a well-hit ball and at the time I thought maybe I should conserve my energy. But learned my lesson. I understand it’s not a good thing. I’ll try harder.”
Ryu said all the right things after the game, despite Manager Don Mattingly having yet to explain to him the error of his ways.
“I didn’t ask for an explanation tonight,” Mattingly said. “We’ll get to it.
“He was slow down to first, but he can’t be that slow. It’s something we’ll talk about. I’m not sure he understands it.”
The lack of effort wasn’t because of some great cultural divide over how the game is played here versus South Korea.
“It’s not a cultural difference, because pitchers don’t hit in Korea,” Ryu said. “But bottom line is, it was my mistake.”
For a guy who hasn’t hit in a game since high school, there were some positives to take out of his trips to the plate. In both of his at-bats Tuesday he made contact, bouncing out.
Next time he does that, chances are he will run a tad harder to first.
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