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Showcase | Story | 1/27/2019

SD's Sim sees the World

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Kevin Sim (Perfect Game)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Kevin Sim and his dad, Chongsoo, left their home in San Diego, Calif., late last week with a mission in mind to arrive in Central Florida and see the world as only Perfect Game can present it.

Despite a persistent and sometimes heavy rain Sunday morning that forced activities at the 21st annual PG World Showcase indoors at the Osceola County Complex, Kevin and Chonsoo felt like their mission was accomplished just by what they were able to experience over the course of a 14-hour day on Saturday. Yes, the trip from one side of the country seemed to be well worth it.

“First of all, I thought it was very important for me to come out here and test my abilities and compete with the best from all around the world,” Kevin told PG Saturday afternoon. “We have guys here from Puerto Rico, Canada, just all over; it’s crazy.”

Chongsoo explained to PG that his son really hasn’t played in a competitive baseball game since he was in Jupiter, Fla., for the PG WWBA World Championship in August. Kevin has been hitting, running, throwing and taking ground balls but hadn’t played in an actual game seeing 90 mph-plus fastballs in months.

“We just want to see what the rest of the baseball world is like, with (players from) the Dominican, Puerto Rico and other countries as well as the rest of the United States,” he said. “Even though it is the winter, we want to confirm how much he’s grown throughout the winter and how we prepare for the (spring high school) season.”

Kevin Sim is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior third baseman at Torrey Pines High School, a University of San Diego commit who has risen to No. 68 in the class of 2020 national prospect rankings. He’s a right-hander that recorded a 94 mph exit velo and threw 87 mph across the infield during Saturday morning’s workout session.

His BP session prompted a PG scout to write:

“The right-handed hitter can hit the ball high and far to left-centerfield. It would have been fun to have watched him take this BP round at jetBlue Stadium in Fort Myers and watch six or seven balls go off the wall.”

Sim was born in South Korea and the family moved to the states when he was seven years old. He’s a full-blown American kid now playing a game many still consider the Great American Pastime, although it is certainly very popular in countries like Korea these days.

The appeal of the PG World Showcase for many of these players is getting to see the prospects from Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic go about their business. Sim was particularly interested in watching the Puerto Rican shortstops do their thing and attempt to carry on a World Showcase tradition of putting the spotlight on young stars from the island; Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa are both alumni of the World.

“They’re always quick, they’re always flashy; I love how they play,” he said. “I love their attitude toward the game so if I can do with whatever they do hopefully I can be as successful as them.”

Chonsoo agreed: “They’re abilities are amazing,” he said. “Their infield defense is smooth; they have a rhythm. Even though he’s not a shortstop – he’s a third baseman – we just want to see that kind of a rhythm from the other kids.”

Baseball can be a year-round endeavor for high school players in Southern California, if they choose to treat it that way. A kid like Sim can show up at the field every day during the fall and do his thing like hit, field and run. During the late fall and early winter the emphasis shifts to conditioning and now, with the calendar flipped over January, it’s now full-force with baseball-centric details.

Sim’s high school team plays its season-opener Feb. 16, but the team has been playing games throughout the fall and the winter, a perk of living and going to school in San Diego. He’s using his participation at the World Showcase as a bit of springboard into his high school season.

“It’s great to come out here and see some live pitching so it definitely will be a little bit of a launch pad heading into the spring,” he said.

This is the 19th Perfect Game event at which Sim has participated, most of them tournaments playing with the elite San Diego Show program its owner, Brian Cain; he’s been named to seven all-tournament teams.

“I’ve been playing for Brian since I was about 10 (years old) and he’s basically like a part of our family,” Sim said. “All of my teammates are great and I’ve know them ever since I first came (to the U.S.). We have great chemistry … and playing with (the Show) makes you feel like you’re a little kid again. It’s just fun being with your friends, your teammates, competing, especially when you’re winning.”

And don’t sell him short while working in a showcase environment. He has been included on the Top Prospect List at five prominent events: 2016 West Coast Underclass, 2016 California Underclass; 2017 Junior National; 2017 Top Prospect Games at TCU and the 2019 Underclass All-American Games. Sim has become a creature of habit during his brief career.

“I always go through the same preparations before every event,” he said. “I just had finals this week at school and I had to grind that out, and then I hit the field, take some fungos, run and then I’ll hit cages. … I try to get locked-in for events like this, try to come out and compete the best that I can.

“Always when I’m at one of these events I just want to get better every day,” he added. “It’s always a great opportunity for me to get better and get to where I want to be.”

The PG World Showcase is considered more of an MLB scouting event as opposed to a college recruiting event – the World Uncommitted, National Underclass East and 14u East showcases are running simultaneously – which means there are a lot of draft-eligible high school seniors – and Dominican free agents – in attendance.

Sim is a junior and won’t be draft eligible until 2020, but that didn’t keep him and other 2020 and 2021s from turning out.

“Obviously getting more exposure with Perfect Game – this is a great event – will get me ahead on the (draft) board; I just thought it was important for me to come out here and compete,” Kevin said.

“If that is the situation, then that would be good,” Chongsoo said of Kevin raising his draft stock. “But our main purpose is to go out there and see a little more different players than he’s been around (and) in the meantime he can get a little more exposure while earning an opportunity (to play at a higher level).”

Chongsoo played professional baseball in Korea for 15 years and he tries to share as much as he can about those experiences with his son.

“Baseball takes a long time,” to learn and understand, he said. “At a young age, you feel like you’re ready for the next level but I always tell him you don’t need to hurry; you need to try and enjoy the baseball at the same time. I was a pro ball player but there was always hard work required every single day.

“One day he may have a good day and go 4-for-4 and the next day it could be 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. I always tell him to be patient, it’s going to take time, as long as you work hard on a daily basis.”

With Chongsoo’s experience playing professional baseball in Korea, Kevin hasn’t been shy about leaning on his dad for advice on how to move forward with his career. And Chongsoo isn’t afraid to offer it.

“He pushes me extremely hard, and I’m blessed to have that; it’s just great,” Kevin said. “I don’t remember much about him playing but when I do look at clips and pictures it’s just awesome; he’s my inspiration. Now he’s helping  me get to where I need to be. … I feel like this whole process is stepping stone. You’ve just got to trust the process.”

Sim’s decision to accept USD’s scholarship offer was a no-brainer. San Diego is home – the only one he’s ever known in the U.S. – so why mess with a good thing?

“It’s San Diego. How can it get any better than that?” he said with a laugh. “I just fell in love with the campus and the school and the field and the program. They were really committed to me so I was committed to them.”

And speaking of San Diego, Perfect Game has a pretty long-standing relationship with the beautiful Pacific Coast city. The Padres’ downtown Petco Park has hosted the annual PG All-American Classic for the last 10 years, and this is the summer Sim would be eligible for an invitation to the game, if he continues to show improvement.

But hey, if a kid is willing to fly across the country to attend the two-day World Showcase, you can bet he would be more than willing to stay close to home and take in everything the PGAAC experience has to offer.

“That would be awesome,” he said. “Coming to all these PG events, obviously that’s something that in the back of my head. I’ve just got to play hard and hustle and hopefully that will get me there.”

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