South Korean baseball team trains in Fort Myers as coronavirus spreads

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Jong Pyo Hong, a second baseman for the South Korea Tigers. (Credit: WINK News)
Jong Pyo Hong, a second baseman for the South Korea Tigers. (Credit: WINK News)

While we prepare for the coronavirus to hit us hard, people on the other side of the world are dealing with a full-fledged outbreak. Paying particular interest to this is a South Korean baseball team training in Fort Myers right now.

The new normal in Seoul, South Korea, is people in protective suits spraying the steps of parliament and the streets, hoping to stop or slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

Jong Pyo Hong, a second baseman for the South Korea Tigers, said the situation is severe right now.

“Whenever he has a conversation with friends or family,” said a translator for Hong, “they tell him to wear masks and always be careful.”

A world away, Hong knows he is safe in Fort Myers under the warm sun with his bat in hand. This is his first year in spring training for the Tigers.

Terry Park is home to Hong and the Tigers baseball team this month. Like the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins, they are here to get ready for the upcoming baseball season.

The Tigers will be in Fort Myers for eight more days. They will play at Terry Park each afternoon at 1 p.m. Whether the South Korea season starts on time is unknown.

“It’s been a team that has won 11 championships so the tradition is outstanding,” said Mark Weidemaier, the bench coach. “Had a couple down years and they hired Matt and I so we’ll see what happens.”

Weidemaier and Matt Wiliams are baseball lifers who after decades of playing and coaching in America, packed their bags and moved to South Korea last fall for a new challenge.

“Culturally there’s quite a few but from the baseball side, there’s not a whole lotta difference,” Weidemaier said. “Baseball, baseball and it’s kind of a universal language.”

While Hong knows his job is to play baseball, he cannot help but think about the health of his family of friends back home.

“My goal right now is to finish this camp strong,” Hong said.

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