Almost two weeks ago, Royals super-fan Sung Woo Lee finally made his trek to Kansas City and see the team that he had followed from his home in South Korea since the mid-90’s. It might be one of the warmest, fuzziest and doggone best stories ever connected to baseball; to read the whole story, go ahead and click here. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, the skinny is this: Lee decided to watch baseball games to teach himself how to speak English. He saw a Jeff King(yep, just name dropped the former Royals 1st baseman) hit a home run and fell in love with Kauffman Stadium. Ever since that moment he has been a Royals fan, watching Royals games at odd times because of the time difference and he has communicated over the years with other Royals fans online. What initially was supposed to be a trip to see a few games at ‘The K’ turned into a city and a community embracing one of their own and showing him how great Royals fans really are.
I could go into all the things that Lee got to do on this trip, but I truly can’t do it justice. To REALLY get a grasp on how great this story is, you should read this synopsis that Michael Engel put together about Lee’s visit. It is a long read, but damn if it didn’t get me pumped again for how great this whole story is. Now, the point of all this isn’t to discuss the trip or to bring up how great it is that Lee probably just had the best vacation he will ever have(and I have to believe it will be hard to top). No, the point I want to make is how Sung Woo is the fan we probably all should strive to be.
One of the main items I have taken away from this whole Sung Woo thing is that the guy might be one of the most positive sports fans I have ever seen. For most of us, there are times all we can see is the negative. In some ways it is easier to do that, rather than look for the gleam of light. Sure there are appropriate times for honest criticism. But there are other times where finding the nugget of hope is far and away the better route to take. I am just as guilty as anyone else of doing this, but watching Sung Woo be excited about even minor things made me realize how we as fans need to view the game at times in a better light. For Lee to say that the only Royals player he has ever not liked is Neifi Perez(and let’s be honest; Perez deserves this shame), that says a lot and covers quite a bit of ground. Watching him get excited about something like meeting Mitch Maier just has to make you realize it is simpler than we make it(although I would probably be excited about meeting Maier as well; I always felt he was underrated). Sung Woo’s outlook of the game is almost of a child, just excited about his team. I still have my moments like this, like anytime I walk into ‘The K’. The little kid comes out in me and I forget about any complaints I have about the team, focusing on getting to see ‘my team’ for the next few hours. It’s a simple approach, yet one that could be put forward a bit more.
The fact that the Royals went on a winning streak during Sung Woo’s time in Kansas City just made things that much better. Here was this huge Royals fan from halfway across the world and after almost 20 years of watching Kansas City, he get’s to see in person the Royals play some of the best baseball they have played during that entire span of time. The Royals community started claiming this was “Sung Woo Magic” and after awhile it really felt like it. What other logical reason was there for the Royals playing out of their mind than Sung Woo bringing them good luck? Sure, it seems implausible but sometimes logic doesn’t factor into baseball. Sometimes guys just get in a groove and don’t know any better. I mean, you have seen the movie “Major League”, right? Even if Sung Woo played a small part in this, you can see why. His love of this team was infectious.
It’s been about half a week since Sung Woo went back to Korea and I find myself still wanting to check up on him. After his dream vacation, I feel a bit like I am a Royals AND Sung Woo fan now. The fact that the Royals fanbase went out of their way to make Sung Woo a part of everything Kansas City made this story even better. I have never been prouder to be a Royals fan nor prouder of every fan that showed him how great being a Royals fan can be. Even the Royals organization did a fantastic job of showing Sung Woo real Royals pride, showing him around the stadium, giving him gifts and having him throw at the first pitch at last Monday’s game. There are 39 games left in this season and hopefully more in October. For the rest of the season we should all be the fan Sung Woo is. We should enjoy every moment of every game and be thankful we have something to cheer for. Enjoy the now and worry about the rest later. That is the true magic that Sung Woo Lee gave us, and I am thankful for it.