SEOUL, South Korea (WWBT)- Midlothian High school graduate Tyler Wilson has pitched against the best, standing atop a major league mound for the Baltimore Orioles from 2015-2017. In 2018, Wilson took his game across the globe to South Korea and the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).
"It was a huge change," Wilson recalled. "Different style of baseball, different country, different language, different culture. There were some growing pains and there was a development process along the way, but I've grown to love it."
The former UVA star returned to South Korea in March, after visiting Japan and the United States. His wife and twin boys remained stateside and are scheduled to rejoin him in Korea next month. Wilson was quarantined in his apartment for 14 days upon returning but observed and heard how the country responded to COVID-19, which was proactive from the onset.
"When it became apparent that it was going to be a nationwide issue here in Korea, people reacted, whether that be out of fear, whether that be out of respect for authority, or a combination of the two, people initiative and shut it down on the front end," he said.
The United States and South Korea both reported their first cases of coronavirus to the World Health Organization on January 20, but the latter only cited 13 new infections as of yesterday. Wilson says that typical life in the country has essentially returned.
"There are still thermal scanners and there are still temperatures being taken at specific locations, but in terms of traffic and population being active, I'd say it's returned pretty much back to normal."
Wilson played his high school baseball at Midlothian, and his high school crowds may have been bigger than what he's experiencing now. The KBO is currently playing games without fans in attendance, but the former Trojan says it's not as strange as one might think.
“The speakers are pumping the players’ songs as they’re hitting throughout their at-bat and the teams’ anthems, they’re the big bongo drums that are out there,” he said. “There is now white noise, background noise that kind of makes you feel like you’re at the game like you’re at a stadium.”
As for player restrictions, the KBO says it will shut down for three weeks if a player contracts the virus. Wilson, who is in his third season with the LG Twins, is living life as normal, but using common sense.
"With active hand-washing, social distancing, just being clean in general, I think we don't have to worry too much about contracting it, but we've got to be cognizant of that."
It's important to note that South Korea's population is about one-sixth that of the United States, but Wilson thinks the way his current country of residence handled the virus can show how important it is to work together.
“Seoul is a city of tens of millions of people and there are no cases on a daily basis, so it just shows that with some collaborative effort and hopefully trending in the right direction, we’ll beat this thing in the states, too.”
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