Editor's Note: May '11

The Last Supper

By the time you read this letter, I will no longer be working at KoreAm. That’s right, this is my last issue as the magazine’s editor. It was a tough decision, as working for KoreAm was never just a job. These pages felt personal. It will likely remain one of the toughest jobs I ever loved.

Which is why I find it fitting that my last issue features Los Angeles Angels catcher Hank Conger, a Major League rookie that has been dubbed by Sports Illustrated as a “catcher on the rise.” And it’s not because I follow the Angels. Nor am I able to properly explain how to calculate a pitcher’s ERA. But nonetheless, I am a baseball fan. I come from a baseball family.

Along with my brother, I was born in Baltimore, and I never doubted my American identity. I didn’t speak Korean, and the only major link I felt to Korea was my mother, a North Korean native who by now, screams “USA!” during the Olympics and prefers a chicken sandwich over sundubu. Yet my upbringing was no Norman Rockwell painting. That is, until baseball came along.

Growing up, I adored the Oakland A’s; (pre-juiced) Mark McGwire, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson—those were my boys. My brother, however, rooted for the San Francisco Giants—and still does, decades later. These were simply the teams we chose to favor, despite living in Los Angeles. And sure, we followed the then-outstanding Dodgers. (Remember that stunning upset in 1988?) As babies living in Baltimore, we wore Orioles onesies and orange-and-black team hoodies, clothing that to this day, my mother regrets tossing out. My mother was devoted to then-Oriole-cum-Dodger Eddie Murray, a first baseman who like her, migrated from Baltimore to Los Angeles during the 1980s. My father, who is no longer in our lives, used to play catch with my brother. Back then, baseball brought us together. In a way, baseball allowed us to become “American.”

Though this month’s cover story profiles Hank Conger, a rookie taking hold of a Major League roster spot for the Los Angeles Angels, to me, this is also a story about family. From the Conger patriarch’s unique immigration story, to how the family rallied together in support of Hank’s dream, this, too, is a story about becoming American: family vacations to Cooperstown, New York, the site of the baseball Hall of Fame, a father coaching youth baseball teams, a mother and brother fetching baseballs on a field. Sacrifices were made, said Hank’s father. “But we enjoyed it.”

That exact sentiment is how I feel about my three years working here. Filling these pages was an honor (and sometimes, a headache), but there is no doubt that I, along with the staff and contributors who have left their mark on KoreAm, enjoyed it.

Thank you for your support and dedication over these last few years. And thank you for trusting me to provide some of the stories that shape what is not just the Korean American experience, but simply, an American one. Signing off, here’s to a new season—and not just for baseball. You will be missed.

—Kai Ma, Editor-in-Chief