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10 years after pitching in KBO, well-traveled MLB coach still misses Korea

Sports 08:00 February 20, 2021

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) -- Doug Mathis may have left South Korea, but South Korea hasn't left him.

Mathis, a pitching coach with the Texas Rangers, spent a part of the 2011 season with the Samsung Lions in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). It was a brief stop in a journeyman career that began in the minor league in Spokane, Washington, saw him pitch in the big leagues for the Rangers from 2008 to 2010, and later took him to Japan, Venezuela and Taiwan.

In this file photo from Aug. 24, 2011, Doug Mathis of the Samsung Lions pitches against the Hanwha Eagles in a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Cheongju Baseball Stadium in Cheongju, 140 kilometers south of Seoul. (Yonhap)

In a recent phone interview with Yonhap News Agency to discuss the Rangers' new South Korean player, left-hander Yang Hyeon-jong, Mathis took a moment to reminisce about his time in the KBO.

"I miss it a lot. While I was still playing, I always tried to go back. I just never had the opportunity," Mathis said. "I still follow the league. I miss the country in general. Korea is a great country."

Mathis said he enjoyed his time in Korea so much that he can see himelf coaching in the KBO in the future.

In this file photo from Aug. 10, 2011, Doug Mathis of the Samsung Lions prepares to pitch against the Hanwha Eagles during the top of the third inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Daegu Citizen Stadium in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

"Whatever happens in my career, I would definitely look into coaching there one day," he said. "I still have a lot of KBO inside me because my experience was such a good one."

That experience includes going 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA in 10 starts after joining the Lions as a midseason acquisition in July. Mathis also started Game 1 of the Korean Series that year. The Lions went on to beat the SK Wyverns in five games for the first of their four straight championships.

In this file photo from Oct. 25, 2011, Doug Mathis of the Samsung Lions pitches against the SK Wyverns in the top of the first inning of Game 1 of the Korean Series at Daegu Citizen Stadium in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)

The Lions decided to go in a different direction the following season and didn't bring Mathis back, though Mathis himself he had no hard feelings toward the Lions or the KBO.

Because Mathis has kept close tabs on the KBO -- he said he enjoyed watching KBO games on ESPN last year -- he was aware of the league's progress over the past 10 years, including brand new stadiums and the addition of two clubs.

"It's really cool to see the way that the league has grown," he said. "Even (among) the players that don't end up coming over to the States, there are still a lot of really good players. It's a really strong league."

In this file photo from Aug. 17, 2011, Doug Mathis of the Samsung Lions pitches against the SK Wyverns during a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Munhak Stadium in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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