Martin E. Kim: Ushering in Ryu-Mania

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For the past 10 years, I’ve been deleting messages with the subject line “Reminder about your invitation from…” but Martin Kim, a marketing strategy, strategic planning, and social media marketing expert got me to succumb to LinkedIn.   Kim who is fluent in English, Korean and Spanish, likes to speak in public and currently works for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Business Development and Korean Relations. I was intrigued…this was not the norm for APIs.

Martin studied International Marketing at the Universidad de Autonoma de Madrid and got his Bachelor of Business Administration from George Washington University. About four years ago, Martin did some side consulting with the Dodgers.  He kept in touch with them, maintained a positive relationship and when the opportunity arose, they asked Martin to apply and he nailed it… a dream job for a sports enthusiast.

Baseball is HUGE in Korea….It was introduced in 1905 by American missionaries….so signing the first Korean professional pitcher to cross over the U.S. –  Hyun Jin Ryu  on November 9, 2012 to a 6 year, $36 million deal is keeping Martin very busy these days.  Ryu is a 6 ft 2 in, 255 lb left-handed pitcher who throws a decent curve ball, slider, and fast ball around 90 mph.  Since he arrived in Los Angeles, Martin has been Ryu’s interpreter, translator, and best friend in addition to all the other business duties Martin’s expected to perform.  I got a chance to catch up with Martin before he starts traveling on the road with the Dodgers starting April 1st.

Martin Kim

Martin Kim

LA County Board of Supervisors Don Knabe’s Field Deputy Rebekah Kim highly recommended that I interview you.  How did you meet her?

I am the Masters of Ceremonies at a lot of community events and I was the MC at her wedding.  I have actually done a lot of Korean weddings, including some of her friend’s because it comes naturally since I’m bilingual.  It makes people comfortable when I speak in English and Korean and switch back and forth.

Is baseball your favorite sport?

When I was 7-years-old, my father brought me to a college level baseball exhibition: Argentina versus Korea and I was hooked.  When we moved to America, I wanted to join the Little League in Philly, which is a pretty big baseball town, where I played outfield, infield, 2nd and 3rd base.  I love sports especially football… and basketball (and of course, baseball).

“Jerry Maguire,” “Moneyball” and “Trouble With the Curve” have exposed movie goers to the complexities and excitement of major league sports.  Did you “find” Ryu?

No, I’m not a Scout but I liaison with Scouts in Asia and do player development, communications and handle the business side of the game.  Ryu was already a super star in Korea.  He pitched for seven years before we signed him.  I have been reaching out to Korean companies to create partnerships between Korean corporations and the Dodgers.  I brought in Hite Beer and Choco Pie’s into Dodger Stadium and I also got PSY to perform his hit “Gangnam Style” when he had only 40 million views.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-Jin Ryu

I love PSY! I wrote about the start of the PSY phenomenon back in August when he had only 2 million views on YouTube.  How did you make that happen?   

One of my buddies was part of his management team so he agreed to come to the game and that kicked off his LA talk show circuit.  During the game, we have “Dance Cam” where we show people doing a dance and when we put PSY on the big screen, the fans went nuts when they realized he was performing live in the stadium.   It was really cool.

Seems like you have the dream job.  What’s next?

I come from the business side so my long term goal is to crossover Asian talent and bring them in from Asia and vice versa.  There’s a big market out there and sports defies different cultures and really connects people.   I like to push myself to new heights.  I’m fortunate that I have a passion for what I do and I have an experiment in my hands…to push for the Korean “Fernandomania” (Note:  Fernando Valenzuela Anguamea was also a left handed pitcher from Mexico who signed with the Dodgers in 1981 and led the Dodgers to the World Championships his first year.  He was a Dodgers fan favorite throughout the 1980’s and retired in 1997 from Major League Baseball.)

What are your future goals?

I’d like to speak more to youth and motivate them to not limit themselves to what their peers are doing; and to learn how to market themselves…to stand up and push oneself.  Because of technology today, we have lost the art of communicating.  I talk about “old school networking” and the importance of saying “thank you” in traditional ways.   Regarding the Dodgers, I did some consulting with the Dodgers a few years back and I would keep in touch with the staff; I would clip articles out of the paper and send them notes and when a position finally opened up, they hired me.  I believe it’s not who you know but who know you that counts in life.

Do you have any mottos?

Not sure if this is too religious, but I’ve always kept this in my heart: “Your talents are a gift from God. What you do with your talents is your gift back to God.”

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