Monday, June 30, 2014

Halfway Point

     I know it's been a while since I've written, but I've been busy living the life here in Seoul! We are just a little over halfway through the regular season and while it's not quite the position we'd like to be in, there is still plenty of time to turn things around. I read an article today from back home in the U.S stating how the Dodgers were 9.5 games back from the Giants in early June. They are now virtually even 3 weeks later. If that doesn't tell you anything is possible then I don't know what will. We can get hot and rattle off a pretty good winning streak just like any team can. It's important to remain positive and put the necessary work in everyday to ensure you're doing everything possible to help the team win. And to you fans, thank you for being there each and every game to support us.
     Aside from the job/baseball portion of my life, I've had many new experiences that make this time here in Korea so enjoyable. One of those experiences came roughly 3 weeks ago with my teammate Everett Teaford. We were off to pay a visit to Costco to get some groceries and stuff to have at home. We hopped in a cab with one of our translators, Nick, on the phone to tell him where we'd like to go. He told him Costco and off we went. About 10 minutes later, we pulled up to some building that had stock exchange written on the side of it. This was clearly not Costco so we got our other translator, Jay, on the phone to try and explain to him where Costco was. This driver clearly had zero clue what Costco was and eventually I spotted it out the window in the distance. If it wasn't for that, I don't think we would have made it. Here is the video:
     I've also had a good amount of different restaurant samplings in my 4 months here. We've managed to find several places that have great food that we have returned to time and time again. And the funny part is, it isn't just Korean food. I love this Mexican spot we found in Apgujung called Coreano's. Great Mexican food and they speak a good amount of English too. Brick Oven Pizza here in Gangnam is always going to be my favorite because of my love for pizza in general, but tonight I had Maple Tree Korean BBQ in Itaewon and it was fantastic. It gives Brick Oven a good run for its' money and I will be returning there very shortly for sure. With my girlfriend and family coming shortly, there will be plenty of eating out and even more experiences to speak of.
     I can't forget to talk about what has taken over my personal life for the past 2 weeks, and that's the World Cup. With it being held in Brazil, the time difference is a killer and I've found myself falling asleep at 3 AM most nights so I can watch the first game of the day whether the U.S.A is playing or not. Watching some of these teams play is such a treat that I can't pass it up. If I had to pick a winner, I think Germany wins it all, but there are so many competitors out there capable of taking anyone down. With that being said, I've got roughly 30 hours until the kickoff between Belgium and the U.S.A. For sporting events, there are 3 things I get really excited about: Jets football games, UConn Basketball games and the U.S World Cup games. I got the World Cup fever in 2010 for the first time and I don't see it going anywhere anytime soon.
     The weather is heating up here and that means the subway is getting hotter too. If you see me sweating, I apologize in advance. I love taking the subway to Jamsil everyday though. It seems like I meet someone new all the time who wants a picture. A week ago, I saw 2 teenage boys sitting down looking at me and then looking at their phone. They did this for 5 minutes while I glanced at their phone to see what they were looking at. They had found a picture of me and were trying to decide if I was that person. Finally they got the courage to ask me and I took a picture with them. If you see me, please don't be shy!!! And one more thing, please do not be shy about bringing me some hotteok. I can always eat one of those, they are my absolute favorite.
     I still have several things I need to do this summer including screen golf, trekking to the Demilitarized zone and visiting Seoul Tower. We have the All-Star Break coming up soon and I will have Jenna here to do some activities with. Also, I need to get on that fishing expedition and trip to Everland. Amusement parks are a personal favorite These Korean fish aren't ready for me!! I will be sure to write sooner as I have had multiple people ask me when I am writing next. See you all you fans tomorrow night!!!! Until next time...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Getting More Comfortable

     It's been a while since I've last posted, but for good reason. I've been extremely busy trying to get settled and learn as much as I can about Seoul. I feel like every day presents a new challenge trying to become acquainted with the culture and lifestyle here in Korea. I really couldn't imagine doing this without my translator, Jay as he has been a lifesaver. On top of being a translator, he has several more jobs including being my dinner partner, cheerleader when I am pitching and being responsible for ordering me pizza and jjambong delivery because we all know I could not do that by myself. We get along extremely well and I love having him around.
     We are 5 games into our season thus far, having won 2 of the first 5 we have played. Things will get better and the important thing to remember about baseball is that the season is a marathon not a race. I have been told dozens of times "Cory, it is not about how you start, but how you finish." The goal is to get better each and every day, putting yourself in a position to win every night. I believe we are a great team and time will show that. Until then, it is a lot of hard work and support that makes a team come together. 
     Aside from the baseball part of my life, there have been many experiences that I have been able to laugh at along the way. One of those was my trip the other day to Costco with our new foreign pitcher, Everett Teaford. If anyone in Korea wants to know what it feels like to be in Times Square in New York City for New Year's Eve, go to Costco on a Friday. Oh my goodness! Is there not a limit as to how many people you can have in a store? Large crowds in a small space are not my thing, but it was worth it. We bought a bunch of groceries and other items that are tough to find around my apartment in Gangnam, especially a big box of Rice Krispie treats. On top of it being crowded, it took another 25 minutes to get a cab to go back. Oh well, I had nowhere else to be.
     Also, I've heard a few Kpop songs I like along the way with my favorite being "You Don't Love Me" by Spica. Very catchy. I like to hear things in different places and then repeat them to Jay to see if I am saying them right. Let me tell you, I know exactly how to say "Doors are closing" in Korean because I hear it every day on the subway. I'm going to learn a lot more by the end of the season, its just takes time. 
     If anyone likes breakfast, I really suggest you head to ButterFinger Pancakes in Gangnam. Its close to my apartment and the food is phenomenal. Josh and I ate there after a game the other day and didn't even talk to each other because we were so preoccupied with the food. Also, there is a sushi buffet a few blocks away that is great as well. I like to find a place I like and stick with it. I'm open to exploring, but I always like to know what I am going to get and with these two places, I know. 
     As I mentioned earlier, we got our last foreign player Everett and I'm trying to catch him up as quick as possible on the way things work. We met in 2010 so we know each other already and it makes things easier. If you see a guy wearing a black cowboy hat in Seoul, it is definitely going to be him. That I can promise you. I think he's enjoying himself so far and it will only get better with time. Wait until he is at a Saturday game at Jamsil and hears the crowd; that's my favorite. You fans are the best. 
     Well, we have 3 games here in Busan against Lotte before we head home. I get to see my father on Sunday so I will have to show him a good time and get him an LG shirt to wear to the games!! Also, if you see me anywhere near the stadium or even on the street in Gangnam, please do 2 things. 1. Say hello and tell me you're an LG fan. 2. Buy me some hotteok because I love it!!!!! Until next time...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Loving My New Home

     As of March 5th, I can now officially call Seoul my new home. This is extremely refreshing and exciting considering the last 7 weeks of my life have been spent in several different locations, dressing myself in the morning out of a suitcase. The flight from Okinawa was relatively short. After a quick check through immigration and customs, Josh and I were greeted with several bright camera flashes as we exited the terminal. At this point I wasn't quite sure if I was being mistaken for Matthew McConaughey or George Clooney, but perfectly understandable! From the airport, we took a bus roughly one hour to Jamsil Stadium, our home field. It's located right next to the Olympic Stadium from the 1988 Summer Olympics.
     After quickly throwing my bags into my locker, it was time to move into my apartment. The locker room by the way is phenomenal and recently renovated. It's extremely comfortable and spacious for all the guys. Both Josh and I jumped into a taxi with Jay, my translator, bound for our home in Gangnam. For those who don't know, Gangham is a section of Seoul much-like say the Upper East Side or Greenwich Village in Manhattan, NYC. This was our first encounter with the traffic and let me tell you, it is not something I will ever be comfortable with. Stop and go for 20 minutes to travel a few miles is not my idea of good travel. Aside from that fact, I was in awe of both how clean the city was and how upbeat it was. I felt like I was right back in New York City…minus the clean part.
     We moved into our apartments (which are great) and headed off for a much-needed meal. I loved walking down the narrow side streets and checking out everything. Gangnam has absolutely everything including my favorite, Brick Oven Pizza New York Style. Josh and I ventured to this restaurant last night and were not disappointed in the slightest. We've also made our way to a sushi place twice already where you can pick your sushi right off a conveyor belt that runs by your table. One of the sushi chefs even recognized us from the internet I guess and made us a couple special plates. Not too bad!!
     I cannot stress how good the food is, how good the service is, and how much of a variety is available. Thinking about this makes me wish my girlfriend, Jenna was out here to spend the summer with me. She is currently kicking some butt in Topeka, Kansas in the sports broadcasting industry and I'll just have to wait until summer for her to come visit me. She is 8 inches shorter than me and 90 lbs lighter than me, but there is no question she can eat just as much, if not more than me. Jenna is a food lover and I make it a point to tell her about everything I sink my teeth into. My favorite thus far has been the blueberry pancakes at ButterFinger Pancakes next to my apartment building. I cannot wait to try more restaurants and to experience everything Gangnam has to offer.
     Along side all the great things and experiences, there are also a few instances in which Josh and I have had some difficulty. For instance, we went to a local store today to purchase laundry detergent and spent 5 minutes trying to figure out which one would go in the washer. Every single product was in all Korean and although I am going to learn to read Korean soon, I could not tell the difference between detergent and fabric softener. Oh well, let's hope I picked the right one because I'm doing laundry as I write this! The language barrier is tough, resulting in me almost getting on the subway in the wrong direction. I live 4 subway stops from Jamsil stadium and I love riding it. It takes roughly 8 minutes to get to work on the subway every day and it couldn't be more convenient. 
     It has only been a few days here, but I already feel at home. I've been stopped multiple times to take pictures with people who recognized me and I couldn't be happier to do so. The fans are great and you all are what keeps this team ticking. I look forward to meeting many more fans along the way and hearing you all cheering for LG as the summer progresses. Tomorrow, we leave for 12 exhibition games as a final tune-up and I'm eager to work hard and be as ready as possible. Hopefully this weather warms up and I'll miss sleeping in my apartment in Gangnam while we're gone. The season is almost here and let's go LG!! Until next time... 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Japanese Experience

     Since February 9th, I have been in Okinawa, Japan along with the rest of my teammates participating in daily workouts. Spring training is officially in full gear as the season is approaching quickly. That may seem a little exaggerated, but with March 29 being our opener, it gives pitchers like myself only a limited amount of outings to fine tune everything. This means every day is very crucial to ensure you are ready to go, ready for when it counts. Two days ago I got my first game-action and it went relatively well considering it's been almost 6 months since my last outing. It always brings upon a few nerves, but they quickly fade away as soon as you throw your first pitch. Our team is very talented and I cannot stress how excited I am to compete with this group.
     As each day goes by, I will say that I get more and more comfortable. I think that getting placed on a new team with new teammates requires a lot of observation and patience as well. Every year, a baseball player meets new guys and has to bond as best as he can with these new acquaintances. It is no different here, only with a culture and language barrier to complicate the process. The first couple weeks I was as friendly as possible while trying to feel things out along the way. Now, I can say that I am developing relationships with a lot of guys and it makes everything that much more enjoyable. My teammates are awesome and couldn't be more helpful to someone who is 9,000 miles from home. This team is now my family.
     All baseball aside, Okinawa has been quite the experience thus far. Today was an off day for us so about 15 of us players and coaches took the 75 minute ride to Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, the second biggest in the world. I can't imagine how much upkeep has to go into this place because it covers so much ground. Besides the actual indoor aquarium, there are gardens, outdoor tanks, and other exhibits covering acres and acres. My personal favorite was the dolphin show although I couldn't understand a word of what the trainers were saying. I took a video on my phone of jumping dolphins, pretty impressive. I'm a big fan of Sea World in the United States and this show was similar to those put on there. They had manatees, sea turtles and 3 giant Whale Sharks which were swimming around inside a massive tank indoors. There also were some Yellowfin Tuna swimming around in there and I would love nothing more to be able to cast a nice line out there and reel one of them in!
     We've also had two more off days up until this point. The first day consisted of a trip to Naha, the biggest city here to walk around and check out the scene. Some guys shopped a little bit, but I was busy looking at the bottles of liquor they have here with Pit Vipers in the liquid. So inside of the bottle is a fierce looking snake, dead as can be. I'm still debating on whether or not I need to bring a bottle back with me to the USA. I also had a fantastic crepe in Naha stuffed with bananas, chocolate and caramel ice cream. I've never been afraid to sample the dessert menu when ice cream is involved. I only purchased some batteries and an external hard drive at the local "Best Buy". I can't get over how nice the workers are in these stores always bowing to me and smiling, immediately putting you in a more pleasant mood.
     The other day was spent relaxing at the hotel and walking into town for dinner with just Josh Bell, my other American teammate. It started to rain on the walk there of course so we were soaked by time we got to the restaurant. As we walked in, we sat down and didn't get served for 15-20 minutes. I don't know why it took so long but it ended with me stuffing my face with tuna sushi and chicken teriyaki. Our last off day is this coming Wednesday and Josh and I plan on getting our snorkels ready. We want to get wet somewhere in the East China Sea. The lobby of the hotel has several small excursions to pick from and the middle of town has no shortage of dive shops so we should be fine. Maybe I'll get lucky enough to find one that offers spear fishing. That way I can open my own sushi restaurant here in town where we take people's orders in less than 20 minutes. Pictures are sure to follow if we do go.
     While I am in Japan, I've brought my little piece of the USA with me, Netflix. I watch several episodes of Always Sunny in Philadelphia daily, quoting from every one. Between that and the country music I have pumping at 7:30 AM, I'd say I'm getting by just fine. Nothing like some Eric Paslay in the morning (he's a new favorite). Last night, we had our best dinner yet, Korean BBQ. For those unfamiliar with it, its a bunch of raw meat put out into separate bowls or plates to choose from. We had the choice of 3 different types of beef, chicken, lamb, pork, hot dogs, and scallops. I was a sucker for scallops and a lot of them at that. You bring the meat back and cook it yourself at a grill located in the table. I've attached a picture of my view from the table. Also attached is a picture of Josh and I outside the massive aquarium. Tomorrow is another opportunity to get better and get myself ready to go. Until next time...

Sunday, February 9, 2014

This is it, don't get scared now.

     For those of you who don't recognize the title, shame on you! It's from a personal favorite and one of the best American movies ever made, Home Alone. Well, it's official. I will be off American soil for the next 9 months and I couldn't be happier to call parts of Asia my home. A majority of that time will be spent in South Korea, but for now, Okinawa will be my spot of residence. I'm writing this blog from my hotel room listening to the waves crash on the beach about 50 yards from the building. It's beautiful, yet the weather hasn't been particularly desirable. I guess I should be patient as we haven't even been here for 24 hours yet. It rained last night in what seemed to be a fitting ending to a very long 36 hours of travel.
     Let's backtrack a bit and recount the exact happenings of the long journey to get here. We left Arizona at approximately 1 PM on Friday afternoon. Before we left, I walked about a half mile both ways to make a key purchase, an XBox One. I might have seemed like a fool to some walking back with the XBox in one hand and a carry-on piece of luggage wheeled in the other. The carry-on was filled with vitamins, shampoo, deodorant and anything else I could get my hands on at Target. Better to be safe than sorry. I was feeling prepared. I packed my bags onto a truck that would meet us at the airport and changed into a suit to travel. We would then take a bus 5 hours to Las Vegas to eat, kill some time and then board the Korean Air flight non-stop to Seoul.
     The flight to Seoul left at 11:40 PM Pacific Coast time on Friday. Both Josh Bell and I had tickets in business class, which was clutch. The seats fully reclined into beds and provided much needed comfort for a 12 hour and 50 minute flight. Two meals were served and I managed to watch three movies: All is Lost, Last Vegas, and About Time. For those of you critiquing the last choice of movie, I am no stranger to chick flicks or anything close to it. I enjoy a good Rachel McAdams movie as much as anyone. We arrived in Seoul on Sunday at 6:30 AM. This means that I never set foot on the ground for Saturday, February 8th. I can now make up stories about what happened on that day and no one will ever know. Our day was not done yet however.
     The rest of the team would get their baggage and leave the airport to go sleep at home and enjoy their families. Not us. Josh and I don't have family within 7,000 miles so we were boarding another plane to Japan that would leave at 9:30 AM( actually 10:30 with the delay). I got a nice Burger King breakfast sandwich at the airport, which by the way was the nicest airport I've ever been in, and waited for the flight. At this point, I have to imagine people looking at me, and smelling me for that matter, have to be disgusted. I look like I've just crawled through the sewers with the Ninja Turtles and need money for a meal. After a 2 hour flight, we landed in Okinawa at their beachside airport. You would think that the workers as Asiana Airlines would know how long of a trip I've had and how desperate I was for a shower. Not these workers. Another half hour spent at the baggage claim and we had our stuff ready to rock.
     On the way out, we loaded our bags into 2 vans and I was taken for a surprise when the driver got into the right side of the car. Where are we, London? I guess they drive on that side in Japan too! We ate lunch and then went to the Sunmarina hotel. This place reminds me of a Dominican Republic resort. My goal is to befriend a fisherman and maybe haul in a few big boys before we leave in the beginning of March. I would be able to check that off my bucket list. The water is blue but choppy because it is very windy. I'm not complaining.
     I went upstairs to my room and was exhausted. We had finally made it, but it had been quite the journey. I unpacked a little bit, before I showered. I set up the Xbox and even made myself a cup of Green Tea in the room, which I don't even like but hey, "when in Rome". I went to go take a shower and almost broke my toe doing so. There is a ledge right before the shower for some reason and I whacked my toe pretty hard. I learned my lesson there. Josh and I went downstairs for dinner and afterwards, wanted to have a beer. We went to the convenience store in the hotel, but they didn't take American dollars. Oh boy. Luckily, the front desk exchanged money and we got some Japanese Yen. I was rich. 10,000 Yen for 100 dollars!!! Not really, but it made me feel that way. Then comes the coolest thing I have ever seen in my entire life. A beer vending machine on our floor. I was able to purchase an Asahi beer from a machine. Take note USA.
     I slept for 9 hours last night and feel fantastic. Zero jet lag because the times worked out so perfectly.  We start workouts here tomorrow and I'm excited. Roughly two weeks before exhibition games start and I get to go at some hitters. Below are some pictures I've taken to share. There is my own private movie theater on the plane, which was awesome. The guy in one of the pictures is of my translator Jay smoking a cigarette while I took a paparazzi photo. Jay is the man and I lean on him for everything, take note ladies. There is a picture of a toilet seat, but its not just any toilet seat. It's heated!! And you thought heated seats in your car was cool. And lastly, there's a picture of me with all my Japanese riches. Hope you enjoy and I look forward to catching up soon. Until next time...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

One Week To Go

     February 7th is the day when we board the plane in Las Vegas with a ticket to Seoul. I've been told that we won't be leaving the airport in Seoul, however. I guess the plan is to head to South Korea and then get on another plane to the Japanese island of Okinawa, famed for its role in WW2. This is where we'll spend roughly another 5 weeks getting ready for the start of the KBO season. Exhibition games start February 23rd and I can't wait to face some hitters. The offseason for a baseball player works in 3 different phases. The first phase is the initial couple weeks of rest where you spend no time at all thinking of baseball or even training for a majority of guys. I enjoy that first part with my fair share of fishing, golfing, and eating foods that aren't a nutritionist's dream. The second phase is spent working hard in the weight room, getting as strong as possible for the upcoming season. The last phase is the baseball specific part where you are getting back into the flow of the game. This is where I have been at for the last month or so and it's time for it to end. I want to be out there breaking bats and doing my best to get hitters out.
     With all that being said, my time here is not over as we still have another 7 workouts to go. Today was our first day back after an off day on Tuesday, where I had a blast at the Phoenix Coyotes game, the NHL team out here in the desert. I was welcomed in the clubhouse today with a brand new present from one of the guys! The picture of my new glove is attached and I know LG fans will love the color. On top of that, I had some very nice Under Armour running shoes come in from my agent so I am set to go. I'm currently trying to think of anything I can buy here to take with me that won't be so easy to get over in Seoul. All the guys on the team love to shop here. On off days several of my teammates venture to the factory outlets for a variety of brands like Nike and Under Armour. I just need to make sure I have enough socks because every time I do laundry, magically half of my socks disappear. I've never understood it and I don't think it was meant to be understood, kind of like the Bermuda Triangle.
     Baseball has been going great. I've thrown 2 bullpens so far, with the second one being better than the first which is a good sign. I'll probably throw 2 more before I leave, face hitters in live batting practice in Okinawa and then its game time!! The season for baseball is incredibly long and you have to remember to do all the little things right to ensure your health. This means rotator cuff work, a diligent weight lifting schedule, proper nutrition and supplementation and of course, ample rest. The season is a marathon, not a sprint so each day counts.
     Tomorrow is a standard day for us beginning at 9 AM and ending roughly at 1. From there, I'm headed to the Waste Management Open in Scottsdale, a PGA tour event. I love watching pro golfers because they are so much better than me at what they do. I love golf as much as anyone, but these guys make me feel foolish. With that being said, I'm currently taking challengers for a match in Korea sometime this summer. If my putting is on that day, you're going to have a tough time! The person who is accompanying me to the golf tournament is playing for the Doosan Bears this coming season (don't hate me LG fans). Its Chris Volstad and he was my teammate in AAA in 2013. Should be lots of fun. If anyone reading this has any questions at all or comments, please ask away on Twitter @CRiordan22. Until next time...

Monday, January 20, 2014

5 Days In and Going Strong

So its been 5 days since I first met the guys and put on a LG uniform for the first time. Every day gets a 

little bit easier as I learn the way things are done. None of this would be easy without my right hand 

man, Jay. He is my translator that follows me everywhere (and makes sure I don't myself look stupid!) 

Jay has been a translator in the Korean Baseball Organization for a few years and worked last year for 

the Hanwha Eagles. We've been getting along great and he really does look out for me, which I truly 

appreciate. Jay is already looking into how he recommends I get from my residence to the stadium once 

the season starts in Seoul. On top of Jay being a baseball fan and good translator, he loves golf. He has 

explained to me multiple times how it is substantially more expensive to play golf in Korea than it is in 

the U.S. Most of my spare time is spent either playing golf or fishing so I can talk about it for days. I'm 

going to do my best to take him golfing before we leave for Okinawa, Japan. 
     As far as baseball activities, I'm getting used to the Korean way. Some things are very different and 

others are almost identical to the way I've done it in the states. Pitcher fielding practice or PFP's are the 

same with a huge emphasis on doing it the right way and taking lots of repetitions. The part that really 

differs is the conditioning. The last couple years I have done all my running at shorter distances and 

high intensities. The running thus far has been lots of longer distances and an ample amount of time to 

catch your breath between reps. After the second day of running close to 2 miles, I was pretty pretty 

sore. As we go along, the training coaches have made it clear I have the freedom to alter my program to 

cater to the way I have done it in the past. I will see how my body reacts and what adjustments need to 

be made.

     Today was an off day so I was delighted to be able to hit the golf course and actually got paired up 

with Willie Wilson, an ex-Kansas City Royal from the 80's who is now in their Hall of Fame. Pretty 

cool. The rest of the guys took a shopping trip to an outlet mall an hour away to buy American clothes 

and goods at a much cheaper price than it would be in Seoul. I'm excited to get back to work tomorrow 

and work on getting my body ready for the rigors of the next 8 months. I can't stress enough how great 

the LG Twins' fans have been to be, showing nothing but support and hope for a great season. I'm very 

eager to contribute and to explore Korea.  It is very refreshing to wake up and be excited about going to 

work. I'm very lucky and blessed to be able to play baseball for a living and I owe it to my family and 

fans to give it my all each and every day. I'm posting two pictures: one being "Riordan" in Korean on 

the back of my jersey and two being the Korean game baseball. The ball is slightly different than an 

American baseball because the seams are a little higher. If anyone ever has any questions for me or 

comments, please ask away @CRiordan22 on Twitter. Until next time...