Korean heritage nourishes Jays’ aspiring pitcher

DUNEDIN, Fla. — Kevin Comer is half-Korean.

But that doesn’t stop the right-handed pitching prospect of the Toronto Blue Jays from expressing his pride in his mother’s Asian heritage.

Comer does his best to let others know about his South Korean background.

“I rep [my Korean heritage] pretty hard. I have a nice little Korean license plate frame,” said Comer, pictured right, at the Bobby Mattick Centre in Dunedin, Fla., where the Jays host their yearly spring training camp.

“I don’t speak much of it because I never really got into it as a kid. I just got yelled at with it.”

Born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania to an US military colonel and a former professional women’s basketball player from Seoul, South Korea, Comer’s mother, Myung Cho, made sure that her son grew up with an understanding of hard work.

“My mom, with her work ethic from basketball, and being a Korean wife, she pushed me pretty hard to make sure that I was going to be the best I could be,” said Comer. “She was very strict with what I was doing as far as grades … and pushing me towards baseball and everything.”

Far from begrudging his mother for the stern, disciplined upbringing, instead he appreciates the values and morals that she taught him. In many ways he credits his patience in baseball to the one his mother instilled in him.

“She really built up my work ethic a lot with how I treat what I’m doing and how I’m training,” said Comer. “Just with the way she brought me up.”

She did more than simply teach her son these values, but she also made sure that Comer ate healthy Korean meals, which may or may not have contributed to his impressive 6-3, 205 pound frame.

“I like to think it did. I’m not really sure, but I mean, I ate it all the time so it must have done something,” said Comer with a laugh.

Originally he was prepared to go to Vanderbilt University in Tennessee on a full baseball scholarship. But when the Jays drafted him at 57thoverall out of Seneca High School in New Jersey, it took a long time for him to decide which baseball path to take.

“That decision literally came down to the last 10 minutes,” said Comer. “That was a tough decision to make. And as much as it would have been great to go to school and have that experience as an almost normal student – with the sports and everything – I think I made the right decision because this is what I want to do, this is what I’ve been dreaming about doing. So why not get it started? … Everything worked out perfectly in the end.”

It took awhile for his mother to also accept the difficult decision he made as well.

“She was pushing a bit towards school,” admitted Comer. “But in the end I think she found that she wanted to do what I wanted to do. And then she looked at it and said I got the full scholarship deal out of the Blue Jays. So if I ever need to go back or want to go back, I have it there. So she was satisfied in that. So she got over it.”

It is a long road from being a 2011 first-round draft pick to playing ball in a major league park. But Comer knows that he had the upbringing and the understanding to give him his best shot to make it there. In the meantime, besides honing his talent on the mound with the Jays, he is also looking into some language instruction as well.

“I’ve been trying [to learn Korean] as of more recently,” said Comer. “I can’t take it when I’m sitting there at a dinner table and they’re [extended family] making fun of me and I can tell because they’re laughing and they’re saying my name but then they speak everything else in Korean and they just look at me and laugh. So I know something’s going on so I want to figure that out.

“It would never hurt because you never know if you will meet someone down the road that either he needs some help speaking English, or maybe one day I’m over there [in South Korea].”