Toronto’s Korean community excited after Jays sign star pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu

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Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu watches a throws to a Colorado Rockies batter during the first inning of a baseball game Thursday, May 11, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

TORONTO  Baseball fans in Toronto‘s Korean community say the Blue Jays’ signing of star pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu represents more than just a shot at the post-season _ it’s sparked a media storm and increased interest in the team in South Korea.

The Blue Jays announced Friday they’d signed the 32-year-old left-hander to a four-year deal worth US$80 million.

Ryu made his first all-star appearance last year starting for the National League team, but he’s had celebrity status in his home country since high school, according to one member of Toronto’s Korean baseball community.

J.C. Kim, the CEO of the Korean Canadian Baseball Association, said he’s excited about Ryu’s signing with the Jays, but also apprehensive because the team remains relatively young and untested this year.

However, he said Ryu’s signing will resonate in South Korea and beyond either way.

“I think a lot of travellers will come to visit and see him,” said Kim, adding that Korean media had been widely reporting the signing since rumours broke out earlier this month.

“We even got a call from Korean media too _ they wanted to know about our community’s reaction here.”

Another member of the association, Anthony Kim, said the Blue Jays will become a better-known name in South Korea as a result of the signing.

Anthony said many Koreans closely followed the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ryu’s previously club. The California city has one of the largest South Korean populations outside of the East Asian country.

However, Anthony believes the focus will now shift to Toronto, which is also home to more than 73,000 people of South Korean descent, according to the 2016 census.