Shin-Soo Choo is a name Indians fans are yelling. Goodyear Ballpark in Arizona hummed with fans screaming with excitement for their favorite players. Choo even had fans all the way from South Korea cheering him on.
"Everything is good," Choo said. "Not like normal, but I can play 100 percent of baseball."
Choo's 2011 season was turbulent, to say the least. It began in May when Choo was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. Then, in June, the outfielder took a fastball from Jonathan Sanchez and was diagnosed with a broken left thumb. Choo was put on the disabled list and underwent surgery on June 28 before returning to the lineup.
To top off the roller coaster year, September left Choo with an aggravated oblique. He spent 18 days on the disabled list recovering from the initial strain before tweaking it during his first at-bat since returning to the lineup on Sept. 15.
"I go back to five, 10, 15 years ago ... I had a hard time in the minor leagues," Choo said. "Then I'm married and I have beautiful kids, beautiful family. So now my mind is clear and this year's Spring Training I am most comfortable."
His family experienced a moment last season greater than any baseball moment Choo has ever had. Choo hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning to give the Indians the go-ahead win over the Seattle Mariners after returning to the roster for the first time since the birth of his daughter Abigail.
"I have beautiful daughters. Hopefully, they don't look like me," Choo joked. "I have a lot of memories in my baseball career, but the best moment before the game I had daughter than my first career walk-off homer."
Choo has a clear mind heading into 2012 after spending the offseason with the South Korean Army. Choo spent four weeks in basic training, carrying 50 pounds of weight on his back while hiking over 15 miles. He received an exemption from serving the required two years for leading South Korea to a gold medal in the Asian Games.
"I have more love for my country and more appreciation for military guys," he said. "My body is tired, but I think my mind is clear," Choo told me at Spring Training.
Opening Day is set for April 5 at Progressive Field. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.