(Yonhap Interview) Outfielder turns down chance to return to U.S. to chase KBO championship

After playing for about three months last year for his first go-around in South Korea, Lotte Giants outfielder Zach Reks couldn't resist the pull.

He had a chance to return to his native United States last winter, but ultimately, he chose to play for the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club for another season. Reks wanted to give himself a full year here, and most of all, he wanted to take the Giants to where they haven't gone since 1992 -- the pinnacle of the KBO as the Korean Series champions.

"There was opportunity this offseason to go back. I felt like we had some unfinished business here. And we're going to try and win the championship," Reks told Yonhap News Agency at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Saturday, before the Giants faced the Doosan Bears on KBO Opening Day.

"So, take care of this year. Worry about next year when that time comes," Reks added. "But ultimately, I'm here right now mentally."

Arriving in the midseason as a replacement for the slumping DJ Peters, Reks put up a strong .330/.410/.495 line in 56 games, with eight home runs and 34 RBIs.

As you can tell by those numbers, adjusting wasn't that difficult for Reks, even as he jumped into a new league in a new country in the middle of the season.

"I had a lot of good teammates, so it made it a lot easier to come in," Reks said. "I asked all my teammates, 'What do I need to do in order to do things the best way?' and tried to make those adjustments as time went on. They were really understanding of me coming in later in the season, and extremely welcoming. Made it all super easy for me."

Having an American manager in Larry Sutton and two American pitchers in Dan Straily and Charlie Barnes also helped, if for no other reason than having some people who spoke the same language.

When it came to facing KBO pitchers for the first time, Reks said he enjoyed the learning process.

"In Asia, I feel like you have a lot more guys that try to mess with your timing, and they pause or have higher leg kicks or they turn their body. It's just an interesting way of going about pitching," Reks said. "Baseball is a little bit different here, I think, but it just makes for an interesting game. It's just a different little spin on things, and it's just fun to learn."

After being drafted in the 10th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, Reks played in six games for the Dodgers in 2021 and then 16 more for the Texas Rangers, with hundreds of minor league games and a couple of games in the Dominican Winter League thrown in.

Reks said playing in Asia for the first time has been an eye-opening experience.

"I've been through a lot of adversity in my career in the States. Coming over here is another piece of that puzzle, another set of adversity you got to face," he said. "(I have to) just prove to myself that no matter where I go, I can keep with my routines and keep with my good team camaraderie, and be able to piece everything together and still stay me."

The Giants have not been to the postseason since 2017 and aren't seen as a playoff contender this year either. They lost a wild game Saturday, falling 12-10 in 11 innings, but Reks did his part by batting 4-for-5 with three RBIs, including a go-ahead run in the top of the 11th. He was 0-for-3 with a walk in a 2-0 victory the following day.

The Giants will likely go through more roller-coaster rides the rest of the season, but Reks insisted the team will stick together through thick and thin.

"Everyone wants the same thing, all the coaching staff, training staff, players. Everybody," Reks said. "We're going to try and run for the championship. That's the goal."

As for himself, Reks said he was most looking forward to forging more relationships with his teammates.

"Honestly, go through another year of learning throughout the KBO because it's nothing like MLB or any other league in the world," he added. "So it's just different."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

scroll to top