South Korea, Venezuela History Runs Deep

With the World Baseball Classic semifinals kicking off today, Team Venezuela and Team South Korea will be making their first game appearances at Dodger Stadium, but it will hardly be the first time those nations have been tied to the Dodger organization.

  The Dodgers' ties to Asia date back to the 1950s, when the team toured Japan following the 1956 season, while the club's ties to South Korea were first solidified in 1981 when then Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda hosted clinics and lectures in that country.

Lasorda, who would go on to a Hall of Fame career, also served as the manager for Chan Ho Park, who became the first South Korean native to appear in a Major League game when he did so on April 8, 1994.  

Park, who was a National League All-Star in 2001 for the Dodgers and returned to the team again last year, is one of three South Koreans to don the Dodger uniform, joining Hee-Seop Choi (2004-05) and Jae Seo (2006). Choi is best known for a home-run barrage in 2005 in which he became one of just 12 players in Major League history to hit six homers in a three-game span.   

In addition to the team's Major League ties, the Dodgers have hosted executives from the Korean Professional Baseball League for a baseball workshop and seminar as early as 1990. The Samsung Lions professional baseball team made several visits to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL, the historic Spring Training site which also hosted players from Hanyang University and Korea's LG Twins, with which the Dodgers began a working agreement in 1999.   

The Dodgers' ties to the local Korean and Korean-American community in Los Angeles has also remained strong over the years, as the Dodgers became the first Major League team to have a game broadcast in Korean in the United States on Sept. 9, 1990 and host an annual Korean-American community night at Dodger Stadium.   

The pinnacle of the Dodgers' involvement within the Korean community took place on Sept. 16, 2006, when the club opened Seoul International Park, the team's seventh Dodger Dreamfield in the community.  The $1.194 million renovation to the recreation center, included the installation of a new irrigation system, fencing, landscaping that surrounds the playing area, a state-of-the art scoreboard, lighting, dugouts, bleachers and multi-purpose synthetic turf on the playing field of the baseball stadium, making this the first Dodgers Dreamfield of its kind. Last season, the Dodgers Dream Foundation committed to building 42 additional fields for a total of 50.    

When it comes to Venezuela, the Dodgers' ties are also strongly connected to Lasorda, who served as a coach/manager for the team's most popular team, the Caracas Leones, in 1971-72. Los Angeles has also seen 11 players from that country don a Dodger uniform: Wilson Alvarez, Henry Blanco, Vic Davalillo, Carlos Hernandez, Enzo Hernandez, Omar Daal, Roger Cedeno, Giovanni Carrara, Cesar Izturis, Dioner Navarro, and Luis Maza.   

Izturis, who is the Dodgers' all-time leader in games played among Venezuelans, was the focus of an international media blitz in 2005 to help him reach the All-Star Game. The successful campaign helped earn him a spot representing his home country and making him one of just 28 Venezuelans to be named to the roster of a Midsummer Classic.WBC ties

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