Robert Refsnyder

Batter Up: Korean Adoptee Rob Refsnyder to make MLB debut

Tonight, 24-yr-old Rob Refsnyder will be living my childhood dream of playing Major League baseball. According to YES Network analyst Jack Curry, Refsnyder will be making his much anticipated debut in New York Yankees pinstripes at approximately 7:15 PM Eastern Standard Time, at Fenway Park in Boston.

Tonight, with little regard to the personal embarrassment of living vicariously through others, I’ve decided to call off my age old Yankee hating ways, to celebrate the tale of the two Rob’s. The similarities between us are actually quite staggering. Nevermind the fact that we were both adopted from South Korea as infants. Him: from Holt International in 1991. Me: from Eastern Social Welfare Society in 1984. Or the fact that I started at second base as a freshmen for my high school team, and tonight he will be presumably starting at second base for the New York Yankees. Ok so a little different. Him debuting against the Boston Red Sox, and me debuting against the Cromwell Cardinals. Ya know, tomato – tomāto.

It’s also easy to notice both our names contain capital double R’s. Him: Robert Refsnyder. Me: Robert Regal. Or Rob Refsnyder and Rob Regal. Or Robby Refsnyder and Robby Regal.

We have similar sounding American names. Probably due to our adopted families both having German backgrounds but would you believe we also have matching Korean surnames? He was born Kim Jung-tae. I was born Kim Myung-seob. Ok not that crazy. After all Kim is an awfully common Korean surname.

Rob Refsnyder [right] and Rob Regal [left] with mits on at an early age. (Photo credit from NYTimes)

Rob Refsnyder [left] and Rob Regal [right] both with mits on at an early age. (Photo credit from NYTimes)

What about the fact that we’re both powerful right handed, sweet swinging Korean boys-of-summer? In his last 10 games at Triple-A, Refsnyder has been hitting a scorching .412 and belted out two home runs. While Regal belted out a grand total of zero home runs for his entire career from Little League to high school. So maybe only one of us is “powerful”, but at least we’re both right handed – and Korean.

RailRiders Refsnyder crushes first homer

According to a New York Times article from February, I discovered we also share some bizarre and frustrating youth sporting experiences. Apparently, we both experienced the “go back to where you came from” trash talk, that is commonly directed at East Asian athletes in American youth sports leagues. There is also a story of when Refsnyder was 16 and playing on the United States Junior Olympic team in Venezuela – of how local kids wondered why he wasn’t on the Japanese team. Coincidentally, all my Little League teammates compared me to Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo. In fact many of them were sure we were related. However, these kids were from Minnesota, not Venezuela.

Both of us sought to break uncomfortable stereotypes while attending state universities for college. He was awarded the 2012 NCAA Men’s College World Series MVP at the University of Arizona. During that tournament he was constantly peppered with racist chants from fans which prompted him to tweet, “I will never live in South Carolina because they can’t accept Asians playing baseball.” Quite similarly, I faced a steady barrage of racist heckling on my way to winning the prestigious 2004 “keg race” MVP at the University of Minnesota. Again.. tomato tomāto.

Out of all our shared commonalities though, I’m proudest to share one thing most of all with him. We don’t run or hide from our adoptive background. When prompted to talk about his adoption experiences Refsnyder responded, “I have never shied away from it, and if kids want to ask me about it, I’ll talk about it. I might make a joke, but I’ll never hide from being adopted. I’m proud of my family. I play for the name Refsnyder.”