KBO opener: Matt Williams highlights names DC fans might recognize

Tim Murray
·5 min read

The Korea Baseball Organization will open its season on Tuesday. The 10-team league is expected to play its full 144-games schedule and the season will end in late November. Each team in the league is allowed to have three foreign players on the roster. A number of those players have played in the Major Leagues. 

While we wait for the resumption of sports in the United States, here are some players and coaches that you likely know in the KBO.

Matt Williams - Manager, Kia Tigers

Yes, that Matt Williams. Former Washington Nationals manager from 2014-15 is entering his first year as the manager of the Kia Tigers in the KBO. Williams led the Nationals to a 96-66 record in 2014, the NL East crown, and was named NL Manager of the Year. However, Williams is most remembered in D.C. for pulling Jordan Zimmermann with two outs in the top of the ninth inning in Game 2 of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants. Williams was fired after a disappointing 83-79 record in 2015. 

While not remembered for his playing days in Washington, it's worth noting, Williams was a five-time All-Star and won four Glove Glove Awards over his 17-year career.

The former Nationals manager spent the past two seasons as the third base coach for the Oakland A's. Mark Weidemaier will serve as Williams' bench coach. Weidemaier was part of the Nationals coaching staff from 2014-15. Hee-Seop Choi is the hitting coach for the Kia Tigers. Choi played four seasons in the Major Leagues with the Cubs, Marlins, and Dodgers. In 363 career games, Choi hit .240 with 40 home runs and 120 RBI.

Hyun-Soo Kim - Outfielder, LG Twins

Signed by the Orioles prior to the 2016 season, Hyun-Soo Kim's time in Charm City did not get off to a great start. After struggling in spring training, Kim reportedly refused to start the season in the minors which led to Orioles fans booing him on Opening Day. By the end of the 2016 regular season, Kim's approval rating had improved considerably. On September 28, the Orioles trailed the Blue Jays 2-1 in the top of the ninth inning. With one out, Kim hit a pinch-hit, two-run home run off Roberto Osuna. Prior to the American League Wild Card game against the Blue Jays, Adam Jones told the USA TODAY, "He not only hit the biggest home run of our season, but it was arguably the biggest hit of the season.''

Kim hit .302 in 346 plate appearances with the Orioles in 2016. The following season, Kim struggled and was traded to the Phillies for Jeremy Hellickson in July. Over two seasons, he played 191 games with Baltimore and Philadelphia. Kim signed a four-year deal with the LG Twins prior to the 2018 season.

Dan Straily - Pitcher, Lotte Giants

After getting released in spring training by the Marlins last season, Straily signed with the Baltimore Orioles. In 14 appearances, eight starts, Straily had a hefty 9.82 ERA. He was sent to Triple-A Norfolk and made six starts for the Tides before being traded to Philadelphia on July 31 for cash considerations. The 31-year-old heads to Korea after compiling a 44-40 record with an ERA of 4.56 in 156 Major League appearances.

Mike Wright - Pitcher, NC Dinos

The Orioles third-round pick in 2011, Wright is making his debut in the KBO this season. Over five years, Wright made 101 appearances, 29 starts, for Baltimore. His most memorable moment with the Orioles was his dazzling debut. Wright made his first career Major League start on May 17, 2015 against the Angels. He struck out six, walked none, scattered four hits over 7 ⅓ scoreless innings. Wright was traded to the Mariners on April 24, 2019 and split the remainder of the season between Seattle and Triple-A Tacoma.

Tyler Wilson - Pitcher, LG Twins

Selected by the Orioles in the 10th round of the 2011 MLB First Year Player Draft, Wilson is entering his third year with the LG Twins in the KBO. Wilson made his Major League debut on May 20, 2015 against the Seattle Mariners. From 2015-17, Wilson appeared in 42 games, 19 starts, for Baltimore and had an ERA of 5.02. 

Wilson has flourished in Korea. In 56 starts over two seasons, Wilson is 23-11 with a 2.99 ERA.

Odrisamer Despaigne - Pitcher, KT Wiz

In six years in the Major Leagues, Despaigne made 120 appearances and had an ERA of 5.11. After defecting from Cuba, Despaigne signed with the San Diego Padres in 2014. On February 4, 2016, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. Despaigne made 16 appearances out of the Orioles bullpen before getting designated for assignment in September. Despaigne signed with the Marlins on Sept. 15, 2016 and made 32 appearances for Miami through 2018. The Nationals faced Despaigne nine times. He was 0-3 with a 4.38 ERA against Washington.

2020 is Despaigne's first year in the KBO and he will be the Opening Day starter for the KT Wiz.

Aaron Brooks - Pitcher, Kia Tigers

From 2014-19, Aaron Brooks made 47 appearances, 28 starts, for the Royals, A's, and Orioles. Brooks was claimed off waivers by Baltimore in July of 2019 and finished the season with the O's. On August 27 at Nationals Park, Brooks tossed six scoreless innings as he outdueled Patrick Corbin and the Orioles blanked the eventual World Series champs, 2-0. In 14 appearances, 12 starts, with Baltimore, Brooks went 4-5 with a 6.18 ERA. 

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KBO opener: Matt Williams highlights names DC fans might recognize originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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