Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu and pop star Psy, both from South Korea, exchanged… (Victor Decolongon / Getty…)
It was part spectacle, part marketing scheme, and partly like being in someone’s bad music video. Only on a baseball field.
If that picture is slightly hard to fathom, then you clearly are unfamiliar with the phenomenon that is Psy. Those crafty Dodgers marketing types, however, are well versed in the “Gangnam Style” star’s international dancing and singing fame.
Which is why it was arranged for Psy to meet Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, their common bond being -- they are both from South Korea. Hey, whatever works.
Adding to the awkwardness of this bizarre photo op was that it took place after the game, after Ryu had pitched the Dodgers to a 6-2 victory. Imagine if Ryu had been rocked a la Ted Lilly, and then had to schlep back in front of the crowd and put on a happy face.
Psy had already made one memorable appearance Tuesday, coming out by the owners’ box in the middle of the fourth inning to perform about a 30-second dance to his latest hit, “Gentleman.”
If the crowd seemed uncertain what to make of the pop star, check out the absolutely bewildered look of Tommy Lasorda in this video, who is sitting right next to Psy as he does his brief hip-gyrating maneuvers.
This dance came shortly after, through his manager, he refused my interview request at his suite because he did not want to distract from Ryu’s moment. You know, other than all but stopping the game for an odd bit of look-at-me next to the Dodgers dugout in the fourth.
The big postgame meeting on the field was pretty brief, though there were enough Korean media there to give any self-respecting Hollywood paparazzi a run. They packed behind a roped-off area on the field just beyond the Dodgers dugout.
Psy, wearing his trademark sunglasses – those stadium lights can be so bright at 10:30 p.m. – arrived first, while cameras clicked away. There were maybe a dozen TV cameras, too, but no interviews.
Ryu, who had thrown 104 pitches in six innings, arrived still in uniform and wearing a sweatshirt. He handed Psy a Dodgers jersey with his No. 99 and “Ryu” inscribed on the back. Psy held it up for the cameras, but never put it on while on the field.
“I’m just really thankful the game turned out the way it did,” Ryu said. “It would have been a really different situation if it went the other way.”
There were maybe a couple thousand people left in the stands for all this, but no matter. Cameras were clicking away. Psy, who actually seemed nervous, took out a sunglass case, signed it and handed it to Ryu. More pictures, and they wandered off to the Dodgers clubhouse.
Not exactly a moment to play James Earl Jones’ baseball field speech from “Field of Dreams.”
In the clubhouse, Psy finally put on the jersey and posed for pictures with various Dodgers. Jerry Hairston Jr. flashed his version of the "Gangnam Style" dance. Lots of smiling, as the Dodgers appeared to put up with this odd distraction well.
I again tried to talk to the king of YouTube as he left, but some handler kept doing the no-interview bit and stepping between us. Imagine my chagrin. Dogged reporter than I am, I fired a couple of questions around the handler.
Insightful stuff like, how did he enjoy the on-the-field meeting – “It was awesome,” Psy said. – and was he actually a baseball fan – “Yes, but mostly I’m really pulling for Ryu.”
Everything you wanted to know. Later Ryu met with the Korean media in a packed interview room and said: “It was good than he came by. It was a lot of fun.”
He said they actually didn’t talk much, but made plans to have dinner later.
Most of the Korean media questions were actually about the game, about how Ryu had pitched and his 12 strikeouts. Not that there were not some Psy inquiries, and one Ryu admission.
“He’s a worldwide, global star,” Ryu said. “It was pretty interesting to see him. I realized today that he’s still a far bigger star than I am. So I’m just going to humble myself here.”
That seemed the order of the night.