Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 5/26/13
CINCINNATI A procession of six Asian media people paraded through the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse, headed for Shin-Soo Choos locker and Brandon Phillips shouted, Look, a Choo-Choo train. There goes the Choo-Choo train.Choo is, indeed, a cult hero in his native South Korea and hardly a day goes by that he isnt standing in front of his locker conducting interviews in Korean.And he is fast becoming a cult hero in Cincinnati, where fans chant, Choooooooo, Choooooooo whenever the Reds center fielder does something positive, which usually is two or three times a game as the teams leadoff hitter.On Monday the Reds begin a four-game series with the Cleveland Indians, two in Cincinnati then two in Cleveland, the team from which Choo was acquired in the off-season.The 30-year-old Choo is excited about facing his former team, a team for which he holds no grudges for trading him to the Reds. Choo sent Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti a heart-tugging letter after the trade, thanking him for all the Tribe did for him.Ill be excited to see all my old teammates here in Cincinnati and even more excited when we go back to Cleveland (WednesdayThursday). I made a lot of friends with parking lot attendants and security people and it will be great to see them again.One person who is excited to see Choo in a Cincinnati uniform is Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo. When Choo played for the Indians, he feasted on Cincinnati pitching and Arroyo was usually a gourmet meal for him four home runs and a bundle of doubles and singles.He talked to me about that during spring training, Choo said. He said he was happy to see me in his uniform. Thats baseball, though. There are pitchers who get me all the time and pitchers who I get all the time.For the Reds he is hitting .288 with a team-leading nine home runs, 37 runs, 19 RBI and a take-some-for-the team 12 hit by pitches, tops in the majors. And he has reached base at least once in 43 of his 47 games.Choos Cleveland memories are of early team success and a quick fade and he said, The last three or four years there we had good first halves, then we fell down the second half. But they have a better team this year, it looks like. I hope they keep playing well.Choo paused for a moment, realizing what he said, and added quickly, Except for next week when they play us. Who knows, maybe well see them in the World Series.The four games also will see Choo in Cincinnatis outfield and Drew Stubbs in Clevelands outfield Stubbs was the player the Reds traded for Choo.I said hi to him in spring training, said Choo. Told him good luck. He is a great player and I watched him when I was with the Indians. I know he is a really, really good player. I was pretty surprised I was traded for him.So Choo is humble, too, because so far the Reds have enjoyed the advantage in the deal.Choo said he hasnt kept in touch much with his former teammates, Because Im not really a text guy. I sent a text once to catcher Lou Marson when he played against Tampa Bay and got hit hard at home plate and I asked, Are you OK? I do follow the Indians and check their stats to see how they all are doing.A surprising thing about Choo is that he is a conventional-style American-type hitter. Many Asians, like Ichiro Suzuki, are slap hitters are almost on the run toward first base when they swing. Or they have a high front leg lift before their swing.Choo said he never was slap-and-run, but he did have the high leg kick when he played in Korea.When I came to the States (2001 with the Seattle Mariners) I had the high leg kick, he said. But in the minors I saw that the fastballs were not only 95 to 100 miles an your, they had a lot of movement. And they threw a lot of change-ups. It threw my timing off so I had to change. I was only 18 in the minors so I eventually changed my style to more like American style.Choo said most Japanese players who come to America go right to the majors and it is too late to change their styles, but he had nearly five years in the minors to adjust.The other amazing thing about Choo is that he mostly pitched in South Korea, throwing above 90 and his lethal, accurate arm in the outfield reflects that.When the Mariners signed him, Choo thought it was to be a pitcher. How wrong he was.I signed with Seattle, thinking it was to be a pitcher, said Choo. But they surprised me and said, No more pitching. You are going to be a position player. You have a lot of talent power, speed and we can make you an outfielder with a lot of work on defense. They told me I had all five things (a five-tool player).The Mariners recognized that he had all the tools to be an every day player and Choo insisted his first couple of years he was not a good hitter in the minors.When the Mariners told him their grand plan, Choo said he shrugged his shoulders and said, OK. Ill try a couple of years to see if it works. If it doesnt, Ill go back to pitching. Thats easy for me.He has never thrown a pitch on American soil.He hit over .300 his first two years in the minors and said, But I struck out all the time usually about two times a game. A lot of strikeouts.He still has his share of strikeouts, probably too many for a leadoff hitter (he mostly batted third in Cleveland), but he takes walks and does what he is supposed to do by getting on base. His .438 on-base average is second-best in the National League, behind teammate Joey Vottos .480.For the Reds, it was a trade well-made.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Joe Thomas misses his first career snap after injuring arm

Dolphins fans cheer after Jay Cutler leaves with injury

Browns bench DeShone Kizer again, bring in Cody Kessler

Bills fans boo team off field after hatchet job to end half

NBA fines Kyrie Irving $25,000 for 'inappropriate language' to fan

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Carson Palmer leaves Week 7 game with arm injury

Mets reportedly naming Mickey Callaway manager

Dwyane Wade admits he is struggling to find role with Cavaliers

Ravens' Mike Wallace ruled out with concussion

Why the Bears have found their quarterback in Trubisky

Colts botching Luck injury in the worst way possible

Most prominent sports bans on the 5th anniversary of the Lance Armstrong ban

Sports & Politics Intersect: Cubs owner up for Heritage Foundation post

The 'Like Mike, only better' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Dodgers finish Cubs while Astros find pain in the Bronx

The 'Some call me the Rocket, some people call me Maurice' quiz

Kyrie Irving must lead Celtics through a disaster in search for happiness

Jacoby Brissett: The forgotten up-and-comer

NFL Week 7 Predictions

The 'Can I have a quick sword with you?' quiz

College football 2017 Week 8 predictions

NFL Referee Hotline Bling: Austin Seferian-Jenkins drops a call

Blackhawks get extra depth on defense with newbies Rutta and Forsling

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Most prominent sports bans on the 5th anniversary of the Lance Armstrong ban

Houston Astros hold off Yankees, forcing Game 7

Sports & Politics Intersect: Cubs owner up for Heritage Foundation post

The 'Like Mike, only better' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Dodgers finish Cubs while Astros find pain in the Bronx

The 'Some call me the Rocket, some people call me Maurice' quiz

Kyrie Irving must lead Celtics through a disaster in search for happiness

Jacoby Brissett: The forgotten up-and-comer

NFL Week 7 Predictions

College football 2017 Week 8 predictions

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker