Eric Thames, one of the best foreign players in KBO League history, announced his official retirement. On February 16, Thames revealed his retirement through his social media and uploaded a highlight video of his NC Dinos days and his feelings in Korean especially for Korean fans.
“From thinking about retirement to signing with NC. It all happened in a few days in 2013,” Thames said. I really trained to the best of my ability for all the reasons to support you,” he recalled his extraordinary relationship with Korea.
Thames continued, “Thank you so much for embracing me and the Dinos. No matter which KBO team you support, I love all of you! I will be visiting Korea often, and if you see me, don’t hesitate to say hello!!” I said a pleasant goodbye. Thames’ SNS is flooded with messages of support from Korean fans, such as “As an NC fan, I was happy to have you”, “I will never forget Thames”, and “Tames is a legend”.
It is no exaggeration to say that Thames’ baseball
life is divided into before and after the KBO league. Born in 1986, Thames began his professional career by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 7th round of the 2008 draft and made his major league debut in 2011.
Meanwhile, in 2014, Thames turned his attention to Korea after receiving an offer from the then-new team NC Dinos. At the time, even though he was not a starting player, it was an unusual event for a big leaguer to go to Korea, who was still in his 20s and was still in the 40-man roster. At the time, Thames was very tired from life and personal affairs going back and forth between the minors and majors, and there is also a back story that Thames, who had never known Korean baseball before, decided to go to Korea rather spontaneously at NC’s sudden offer.
Since then, Thames’ achievements in the KBO League have far exceeded expectations. Until 2016, he wore an NC uniform and literally dominated the KBO league in just three seasons, reigning as the best foreign hitter of all time. Thames recorded 124 homers, 382 RBIs and 64 stolen bases in 390 games in the KBO League. His career batting average was .349, on-base percentage, .451, slugging percentage, .721, and OPS 1.172, which ranks first among all hitters with more than 1,000 at-bats.
The peak was also in 2015. Thames joined the 40 home run-40 stolen base club, unprecedented in the KBO League. The overall performance of the season was a batting average of .381, 47 homers, 140 RBIs, 130 runs, an on-base percentage of .498 and a slugging percentage of .790, leaving records that can only be seen in baseball cartoons or games.
Thames led the league in four categories: batting average, runs scored, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. In addition, he recorded two cycling hits this season, which is difficult to achieve once in a lifetime. Even on a single season basis, it is evaluated as having the most ‘great season’ in league history, ranking 4th in batting average, 2nd on base percentage, 1st in slugging percentage, 1st in OPS (1.288), and 2nd in WAR. Of course, the MVP of the regular league that year also belonged to Thames.
Another special history left by Thames here is that a foreign player pioneered a model precedent for a ‘golden return’ from the KBO League to the big leagues. Until now, going to the KBO League was considered only as a second-best solution or money-making for minors or veterans past their prime to continue their careers.
Thames went through the KBO at a young age and proved that he could return to the big leagues with further improvement. And this has been a good stimulus not only to foreign players, but also to domestic players who dream of challenging the big leagues. Thames made a spectacular return to the MLB in 2017 by signing with the Milwaukee Brewers. Although he had some ups and downs, he consistently played as a starter in his first year back in the big leagues, making a soft landing with 31 homers and an OPS of .877.
Thames, who had only 23 homers in his career in the first season of the big leagues before coming to Korea, hit a total of 73 home runs in the second season until the 2020 season and recorded two seasons of 20 or more homers, making his performance in the KBO league bubble. proved that this is not the case. Thames finished his MLB career with the Washington Nationals in 2020, and left his mark with a batting average of .241, on-base percentage, .325 slugging percentage, .467, 96 home runs and 235 RBIs in 605 total games in the first and second seasons.
Thames left the major leagues and played for the Yomiuri Giants in Japanese professional baseball in the 2021 season, but had the misfortune of rupturing his Achilles tendon in his debut game and ending the season. Last season, he signed with the Oakland Athletics, close to his hometown of San Jose, but was released in May after playing briefly in Triple-A. Thames worked hard to recover through surgery and rehabilitation, and rumors of returning to the KBO League and his parent NC were discussed, but in the end, he could not find a new team and decided to retire.
Game manners and good deeds… ‘Conceptual’ foreign player
Thames was loved by fans not only for his outstanding skills but also for his pleasant personality and manners. Foreign players from the big leagues are often criticized for being arrogant or neglecting self-management due to their overflowing self-esteem. However, Thames was recognized as a hard worker who showed a sincere appearance on and off the field by digesting a tremendous amount of training to the extent that his domestic colleagues and coaching staff stuck out their tongues, disregarding such prejudice. 먹튀검증
In 2015, when he had the best season and was in the spotlight, he refused to meet with US Ambassador Mark Lippert, who visited Masan Stadium before the game, saying, “It is my routine not to meet people before the game. In baseball, I am also an Ambassador.” It’s like. Even if the US president comes, I will train,” he said, showing his professionalism.
After advancing into the KBO League, he succeeded in bulking up, and his strong arm muscles reminiscent of professional wrestlers and his distinctive plentiful beard were the trademarks of Thames. After hitting a home run, his teammates laughed at his unique ceremony of pulling his beard.
Outside of the game, despite being a foreign player, he received applause from fans for not only baseball but also good deeds to help underprivileged children in the region or posting condolences on social media for incidents and accidents in Korea. Even after leaving Korea, he was invited as a guest commentator at the opening game of the KBO League, and made surprise appearances on domestic entertainment programs such as <The King of Mask Singer>, continuing his relationship with Korea with his delightful showmanship. As such, Thames was able to leave greater achievements than other foreign players, backed by his steady efforts in baseball – flexible adaptation to Korean culture and emotions, and left good memories for many domestic fans to this day.
Of course, there were also light and shadow for Thames. In 2016, the last season in Korea, drunk driving was caught and left the biggest stain on baseball life. After returning to the major leagues, he left some grades, but as a result, he could not reproduce the explosive power or consistency as in the KBO league, and he was also criticized for becoming a ‘fighting power reader’ that revealed the unavoidable difference in league level.
Nevertheless, it can be said that the relationship between Thames and Korea was a win-win for each other. For Thames, three years in the KBO League was an excellent choice that marked a turning point in his baseball career. Korean baseball also made use of Thames’ talent to the fullest to create shining scenes in the league’s history, and contributed to raising the status of the KBO League by leaving a precedent for foreign players who later said, ‘If you do well here, you can go up to the big league again’. Thames has now taken off his uniform, but history will remember him as a great ‘foreign legend’ who made Korean baseball shine.