Righthander Brooks, Inspired Son, Returns from Korea in Hope of a Job with the Cardinals | Cardinals of St. Louis

JUPITER, Fla. — The Cardinals could once again have a starting pitcher who pitched the previous two seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization.

Kwang Hyun Kim returned to Korea on a four-year contract after spending the past two seasons with the Cardinals. Now the organization has signed free right-hander Aaron Brooks, who was 14-9 in 2020-21 with Team Kia, located in Gwangiu, South Korea, about 4 1/2 hours from Seoul.

Brooks, 31, who is 9-13 with Kansas City, Oakland and Baltimore in his major league career, signed a minor league contract in the offseason with an invite to major league camp. He can pull around $1.4 million if he is part of the Cardinals club. If he pitches, as expected so far, for Class AAA Memphis, he has a few “upward mobility” dates, as he called it Thursday, which means he could opt out of his contract if he does. it is not raised on a certain date. .

Brooks thinks he’s the type of pitcher the Cardinals want, a hitter who catches a lot of ground balls. He walked just 40 while fanning 185 for 229 1/3 innings in Korea, but said he “missed it here.” American baseball is where we all want to be when we grow up. And (Korea) is far from home. Two years was enough for us.

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Going to Korea, Brooks said he could focus on throwing and not worry about being sent back to Omaha, or somewhere else, if he had a bad game. “You don’t have to look over your shoulder to see if you’re the next to fall,” he said. “That’s kind of how my career went, unfortunately.

“I could just settle in, trust my stuff, and keep my locations working better.” He developed a better slider, as it turned out, along the way.

As Brooks burns with the desire to get back into the big leagues, he has his 4-year-old son, Westin, to inspire him. As Brooks wrapped up his first season in Korea, he received a frantic call in September from his wife, Whitney, whose car had been rammed 65 miles per hour by a van while driving from their Manhattan home , Kansas, Nebraska to visit family.

Whitney and her baby girl Monroe, now 2, suffered minor injuries. The left side of Westin’s face was badly damaged. He has lost sight in his left eye but maintains a positive attitude.

“We’re just grateful he’s here,” Brooks said. “It would have been much worse.” It took Brooks 30 hours before she could return to the United States to comfort her family, especially her son.

“All I could do was lay in bed,” Brooks said.

Signing a minor league contract, Brooks had the benefit of training in the minor league camp for the past 10 days or so while the major leagues were in lockdown. Had he signed a big league deal, Brooks would have been among those in training limbo.

Brooks said signing with the Cardinals was a “good choice.” Manhattan is about six hours from St. Louis, which is also not far from Kansas City, where Westin has scheduled other surgeries.

“He’s fine,” Brooks said. “Just cosmetic surgery type stuff.”

After his accident, Westin got to watch his dad pitch in Korea during Brooks’ second season with the Kia Tigers. “He was actually more popular than me,” Brooks said with a smile.

“Their whole country just jumped on board and really got behind us. He has to go out there and do stuff, and he was actually here yesterday, back.

“I see videos taken by my wife while I’m on the mound, and he’s doing his moves just like me throwing the ball. It’s really amazing to watch him grow.

Brooks admitted there was some reluctance to return to Korea for a second season, but his family was able to accompany him and be with him for about half a season before Westin had to return to Kansas City for surgery. .

“He’s a Superman,” Brooks said. “And the kids don’t really care what’s going on here. You can have a really bad game and you put your head down, and when you go home they don’t care. It just helps you stay focused. Coming back to that is definitely a blessing.

Westin’s footprints were commemorated as a tattoo on Brooks’ left arm, along with daily reminders of other members of his family, including his mother and stepmother who both had a breast cancer.

There are no tattoos on his right arm. “It’s the golden arm,” he joked. “I don’t want to touch that.”

Now that the major leagues are back in camp, Brooks will be surrounded by more players his age.

“You come back and there’s just a bunch of young guys and they’re complaining that their bodies feel old,” Brooks recounted. “I ask, ‘How old are you?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m 24.’ »

“Talk to me in eight years,” said Brooks, who turns 32 next month.

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