Korean Little Leaguers take All-Star trip of lifetime

Korean Little Leaguers take All-Star trip of lifetime

Korean Little Leaguers take All-Star trip of lifetime
KANSAS CITY -- It's not often you see two pop-singing sensations, a famous actress, a four-time batting champion and four Little Leaguers hanging out together as a traveling pack. You never know what you're going to see at big-time events such as All-Star Week, however, and sometimes, well, anything goes.

The group is from Korea, invited by Major League Baseball in conjunction with one of their biggest international licensees (F&F). The traveling party included youth baseball players who were awarded the trip of a lifetime through the "Live Your Dream" promotion.

(This is apropos, considering you'll often hear a ballplayer, when asked "How ya doing?" answer, "Just living the dream.")

To these kids, the dream also included being escorted to Kansas City by four very famous Korean natives: two pop stars (Simon D. and Choiza), actress Yoo In Young and retired Korea Professional Baseball star Yang Joon-Hyuk.

The group arrived around midnight Sunday and has been going full force since then. Their first stop was the Kansas City Convention Center, where they took in the sights, scenes and sounds of the Major League Baseball All-Star FanFest.

"It's a great honor to be here," Little Leaguer Shin Dong-Bum said. "I think it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We're really excited, and we're honored."

They were asked, through an interpreter, to name their favorite All-Star players. But the kids didn't just start rattling off names. No, they needed time to think. And confer. And come up with, as a group, a list of worthy All-Stars designated as their favorites.

"Wait," one kid said, holding his index finger up in the universal sign for "just a minute, please."

In addition to David Ortiz, they settled on Matt Kemp and Buster Posey.

Asked what they've enjoyed most about their experience so far, the kids noted a few amenities offered in the States they don't get in Korea. Including the ease of getting from point A to point B.

"The transportation," Shin pointed out, "is very, very nice."

Yang, the retired ballplayer who played for the Samsung Lions, LG Twins and Haitai Tigers -- now the Kia Tigers -- before retiring in 2010, started the Yang Jun Hyuk Baseball Foundation one year ago. Through mentoring and equipment donations, the foundation provides baseball experiences for kids who come from poverty and couldn't otherwise afford to play.

For Yang, an experienced ballplayer in his own right, the All-Star trip is more than he could have imagined.

"For the kids, it's like a dream come true," he said. "In Korea, we have an All-Star Game, but there's nothing else besides the game. There is no other event like this. This is a great experience for all of the kids, and me too."

He's also serving as a teacher, giving pointers to Yoo, who likes baseball, but doesn't know a lot about it.

"It's my first time at a sports-themed event," she said. "I just want to have a good time here."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.