Looking To Learn English, South Korean Man Follows KC Royals For Decades

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Sung Woo Lee started following the Kansas City Royals back in the '90s. Now, a group of Kansas Citians have helped him arrange a visit to watch a Royals game in person for the first time ever — and on Monday, he'll throw out the first pitch. NPR's Arun Rath talks with Sung Woo and Kansas City native Chris Kamler.


Sung Woo Lee has been a Kansas City Royals fan for about 20 years. It is not easy - not because the Royals haven't made it to the playoffs in nearly 30 years, but because he lives in South Korea. Getting up in the middle of the night to watch American baseball can be pretty lonely. But Sung Woo became friends with a Kansas City native, Chris Kamler, who helped organize a trip to the U.S. so Sung Woo could see the Royals in person. I caught up with Chris and Sung Woo on their way to today's game. I asked Sung Woo how he ended up rooting for the Royals.

SUNG WOO LEE: I watch every sports news for my English, and then I saw Jeff King hit a homerun and then the fireworks at the outfield at the K. So the beautiful, gorgeous scene caught my eyes, and so I got interested in the - what the team is? Oh, Royals, oh. So from then, I looked into some Royals information, like history and their track record. So that's when I became a Royals fan.

RATH: Chris, tell me how you got to know Sung Woo and how you helped arrange this trip.

CHRIS KAMLER: Well, it really all started because of Twitter. And I know Twitter gets a really bad reputation sometimes, but there is a very close-knit group of Royals fans that follow the games during the game and all the ups and downs of being a Royals fan. And there was Sung Woo right in with us. Now, of course, it's 3 or 4 in the morning where he is, and so that really kind of fascinated me. Finally, he kind of bit the bullet and came. But he's just a fascinating guy once you get to know him a little bit. And his fandom has really been what stood out to us.

RATH: And you got to see the Royals play yesterday. Sung Woo, what was that like for you watching the game?

LEE: It was fantastic, yeah. Actually, yesterday's game was my very first game in person to see the Royals play at the K. So since I arrived, the Royals had a winning streak going. So frankly, I was so nervous and a little bit pressured if they lose on my very first day at the K. So it was really great to see they shut out the Giants 5-and-zip. So great.

RATH: Yeah, they really delivered with them shutting out the Giants 5-to-nothing for you. Chris, what was it like for you to be with him at the game yesterday?

KAMLER: You know, I'm so proud of my hometown - born and raised here. But I never really knew its full potential until Sung Woo came to Kansas City - and just this gigantic hug that this town has given this guy from Seoul, South Korea. I mean, I've lived here 42 years, and I've never seen an outpouring like I've seen this week.

RATH: That's Sung Woo Lee, the Korean Royals superfan and Chris Kamler, the Kansas Citian who helped Sung Woo arrange his trip. Tomorrow night, Sung Woo gets to throw out the first pitch at Kauffman Stadium.

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