Nippert set to take hill in Korean series

While most eyes in the nation will be focused on Game One of the World Series Wednesday night when St. Louis visits Fenway Park to meet Boston, there’s a few households in the tiny Monroe County community of Beallsville that will be glued to the Korean Series (not that it’s on TV anywhere locally).

Former Blue Devils standout Dustin Nippert is a starting pitcher for the Doosan Bears who will meet the Samsung Lions at the 10,000-seat Daegu Baseball Stadium on Thursday in the opening game of the Best-of-7 series. Doosan finished the regular season as the No. 4 seed and has played nine playoff games in reaching the Korean Series. Samsung had the best record, thus earning a free trip to the finals. They haven’t played since Oct. 1.

According to Dustin’s father, Dave, the former 15th round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2002 who made his major league debut on Sept. 8, 2005, started the opening game of the second-round playoff series in which the Bears defeated the second-seeded LG Twins in four games of their Best-of-5 series. Ironically, the two teams share the 27,500-seat Jamsil Stadium in Seoul, South Korea.

“It’s exciting,” his father said. “He’s excited. We’re excited. If I had my visa, I’d be over there.”

According to limited statistics available online, through July 18 the 32-year-old righthander is 36-20 in his KBO career, which began on April 2, 2011. He has an ERA of 2.99 in that time, while striking out 367 batters.

Nippert is so popular that his teammates have christened him “the Jesus of Seoul,” a nickname he shares with Ben Jukich of the LG Twins.

Nippert isn’t the only American on the Doosan roster, as Garrett Olson, who has spent time in the ‘bigs’ with the Baltimore Orioles (20072008), Seattle Mariners (20092010), Pittsburgh Pirates (2011) and New York Mets (2012).

This will be Doosan’s first Korean Series appearance since 2008, when they lost to the SK Wyverns in five games. The Bears will be seeking their fourth Korean Series title, the others coming in 1982, 1995 and 2001. They have been runnerups four times: 2000, 2005, 2007-08.

The Lions, meanwhile, have captured back-to-back Korean Series championships. They have six overall, the second most behind the Kia Tigers’ 10. Samsung has also finished second nine times.

Since the KBO adopted the current playoff format in 1989, Doosan becomes just the fifth team to reach the series after finishing fourth in the regular season.

During his MLB career, Nippert compiled a 14-16 record with a 5.31 ERA and 214 strikeouts with Arizona (2005-07) and Texas (2008-10). He was on the Rangers’ World Series 40-man roster for one game in 2010 before being replaced. Texas eventually lost to San Francisco.

While rehabbing in the minors during the 2008 season, Nippert pitched a no-hitter for Triple-A Oklahoma City at Omaha against the Royals on June 29.

He also known for the 2010 You Tube video when an Austin Jackson line drive hit him in the side of the head. The ball was hit so hard, it caromed into left field at Comerica Park in Detroit. After spending several minutes on the ground, Nippert got up and walked off the field smiling to a standing ovation. He was taken to the hospital, but re-joined his Ranger teammates at their hotel later that night.

South Korea is 13 hours ahead of us.

ANOTHER major leaguer with eastern Ohio roots, Matt Reynolds, recently signed a $550,000 one-year contract with the Diamondbacks, thus avoiding arbitration. The deal, according to reports, also includes a club option for 2015, which be $600,000.

The lefthander was 0-2 with two saves and a 1.98 ERA in 30 appearances for Arizona this past season. He began the season with a string of 19 consecutive scoreless innings. He had five holds and struck out 23 in 27.1 innings of work.

He was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 20th round of the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft. He made his major league debut on Aug. 19, 2010, and was traded to Arizona on Nov. 20, 2012.

On Sept. 24, he underwent Tommy John surgery and will be sidelined for at least most of the 2014 season. His parents, Matt and Eula, are both Barnesville High School graduates. His grandparents are Lee and Patsy.