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Thames celebrated by Brewers fans in Korean

His cheer song is in the language of his former home
May 19,2017
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Since May 10, whenever Eric Thames of the Milwaukee Brewers stepped outside the batter’s box, loudspeakers at Miller Park in Wisconsin blared in Korean, “Eric, let it fly! Thames, let it fly! Eric Thames, home run!”

The Korean cheer song that accompanied Thames for the last three years at the NC Dinos now finds its way stateside with American fans all abuzz. If it sounds familiar, the melody comes from an early 1900s British song, “Colonel Bogey March.”

“The Milwaukee team asked if they could use the Thames cheer song,” said Park Jung-eon, head of the NC Dinos marketing team.

Unlike Korean baseball, Major League Baseball (MLB) does not have a culture of singing separate cheer songs for players.

Ryu Hyun-jin, for example, pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who played for a time in Korea, chose Psy’s “Gentleman,” while Kang Jung-ho, infielder for the Pittsburg Pirates, opted for Rose Motel’s “Please call me OPPA.”

“In Thames’ interviews with American media, he would often refer to his good memories in Korea,” said Song Jae-woo, MBC Sports Plus analyst and Major League specialist. “Because of that, I heard the Milwaukee team was interested in Korea’s different cheering culture. Korean baseball culture is becoming widely known through Thames.”

Thames was initially an average player who spent his days in the minor league before his three years in Korea. But he now has a total of 13 homers as of May 14 and is on the path to becoming the single-season leader for home runs. His batting average is 0.315 and he has 25 RBIs.

Given his performance in the majors, Koreans are once again becoming fans of the so-called Masan Robocop.

“As Thames is no longer an NC player, we will no longer produce his uniform,” said Cho Dae-woo, an employee on the Dinos’ promo team. “Just a few months back, there wasn’t a single person looking for Thames’ uniform. But when Thames played well in the big leagues, the number of people interested in buying his uniform grew.”

One hundred or so uniforms were hurriedly brought out of storage, but now there are only 40 left, and some fans are even stitching “Thames” on new 2017 Dinos uniforms.

“Because uniforms of players who left didn’t sell, we didn’t think to display Thames’ uniform,” said a Dinos fan shop employee at Masan Baseball Stadium in Changwon. “However, we were surprised when we received a few inquiries. One fan said he would purchase the newly released NC uniform, stitch Thames’ name on it and send it to his foreign friend living in Milwaukee.”

On the wall of the fan shop hung signed Thames uniforms. “I’ll give you whatever amount you want for one,” said one fan.

“When I saw Thames playing well in the Major Leagues, I was extremely happy,” said Lee Seong-jun, a 24-year-old university student.

“That’s why I wear a uniform with Thames’ name stitched on it at NC home games. I’m thinking of only wearing this at baseball stadiums in the future.”

“It would have been nice to have gathered Thames memorabilia and made an exhibition,” said one Dinos employee. “It’s unfortunate, but there isn’t much memorabilia related to Thames.”

“The Chungmugong uniform released this year is very beautiful,” Thames reportedly said.

The Dinos recently designated April 27 as “Chungmugong Yi Sun-shin Day” and showed off a commemorative uniform with a turtle-ship motif. The Dinos intend on also creating a Chungmugong uniform with Thames’ name on it.

BY PARK SO-YOUNG [hwang.hosub@joongang.co.kr]