Former Phillies pitcher Chan Ho Park quietly rode off into the sunset Thursday, retiring as the winningest Asian-born pitcher in Major League Baseball history.
The move is no surprise considering most American baseball fans probably already thought Park had called it a career -- he hasn’t pitched in the majors since a stint with the Pirates in 2010. The last anyone really heard from Park was that the Japanese team he pitched for in 2011 sent him to the minors because he needed to “stop fooling around.”
Phillies fans might not really recall much from Park’s one season in Philly but the Korean-native did manage a 3-3 record with a 4.43 ERA in 45 games with the 2009 team. He even made four scoreless appearances for the Phils in the World Series against the Yankees giving up no runs while striking out three.
But despite all the moments on the field, I will always remember Park for what he did in the bullpen before he pitched. Park had one of the greatest stretching routines of all time.
I remember sitting with my brother-in-law in his seats in the front row of the scoreboard porch just waiting for the middle innings when Park began to loosen up. He would go through a routine that appeared incredibly comical to the point where we thought he might be joking with it. He would walk up and down the bullpen grass mixing in a different set of moves each time -- including a windmill-like move and a squatting walk that looked like he was participating in an ancient ritual. It seemed the routine lasted around an inning – maybe more and the whole time we would sit there watching Park instead of the game.
(I tried searching for video of Park stretching but couldn’t find any. If anyone does dig some up please put it in the comments below.)
And, most of the time he stretched he didn't wind up pitching. I was a Boy Scout so I'm glad to see he was prepared just in case he got the call.
I honestly don’t remember Park ever pitching an inning for the Phils but I remember that dance in the pen.
Of course other fans might remember his pitching -- for his career, Park posted a very respectable 124-98 record with a 4.36 ERA -- or that mega contract he signed with the Rangers but there is one moment he will always be linked to.
Park’s legacy likely is giving up a home run to Cal Ripken Jr. in the 2001 All-Star Game. Many believe that Park grooved the fastball to allow Ripken to ride off into the sunset the hero of his final All-Star Game.
Ripken was my favorite player growing up but despite Park’s role in Ripken’s final All-Star MVP, I still will remember the stretching more.