Speaking with Korean reporters at his downtown L.A. apartment Thursday, the rookie pitcher of the Major League Baseball (MLB) club said he's had no problem adjusting to life in the U.S., and has even gained a little weight from eating the home-cooked meals his mother, who lives with him, makes every day.
The 26-year-old is the first South Korean player to make the leap from the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) to the big leagues. He pitched the past seven seasons for the Hanwha Eagles, going 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA and 1,238 strikeouts in 1,269 innings.
In his major league debut last Tuesday, Ryu pitched 6 1/3 innings against the San Francisco Giants, allowing one earned run on 10 hits.
Ryu currently lives with his parents and older brother at the five-star Ritz Carlton Residences in the heart of Los Angeles. He bought the 1.8-million-dollar home immediately after signing the contract in December. These apartments are a popular dwelling for celebrities, with lavish furnishings such as a rooftop swimming pool and an exclusive bar.
With Dodger Stadium just a 10-minute walk from home, Ryu can wake up at 11 a.m. every morning and still have time to feast on his mother's traditional Korean cooking. "I've definitely gained weight since she came here," the left-handed rookie chuckles.
On his day off, Ryu spends time with his father and older brother, practicing his second favorite sport: golf. Though he refuses to share his scores, Ryu claims he has a driving distance of about 290 yards. When asked if he also golfs left-handed, he says he uses his right for almost everything outside of pitching.
Unfazed by the large time difference, Ryu remains a diligent watcher of Hanwha Eagles games. He also uses the popular Korean instant messenger Kakaotalk to discuss baseball with his old teammates. "I've heard they've been practicing a lot," Ryu says. "I'm confident they have a bright future ahead of them."
Despite the language barrier, Ryu says he has no problem getting by. "I mostly communicate using words and phrases I've picked up on my own," the nonchalant player explains. "If I need to, I can easily grab a translator or a manager for help."
Ryu says he is impressed by the team's energy. "Here, they always give high-fives and cheer each other. It reminds me of one of my colleagues."
The young pitcher says he is satisfied with his new life in the U.S. and likes to keep a low-profile. "I can go anywhere without having to conceal my identity," he says. "But hopefully if I score dozens of wins, more people will recognize me and come to our games."