(Be forewarned. Eric Sim tells it like it is. Some of the words weren’t meant for this site, but some was left as is, so a little NSFW ahead.)
For most of you who are active on Twitter and following other fans, you may have noticed a former Giants draftee who tells it precisely like it is.
A 27th round pick by San Francisco in 2010, Eric Sim has found a fair measure of success in his life away from baseball. And while he enjoyed his time in the game, he doesn’t miss it. Indeed, he’s got a humorous way of detailing what a minor-league player actually experiences, with all of the mystique stripped away.
After retiring from baseball in 2016 when he was released by the Winnipeg Goldeyes, Sim returned to his family and their hotel business in Duncan, British Columbia. These days, he’s busy mixing drinks and managing the bar, in between tweets like this:
Spread changes with as u age,— Eric Sim (@esim3400) August 12, 2018
Little league: home cooked meal
High school: home cooked meal
JUCO: chicken nuggets
NCAA: Chipotle mixed with some late nite McDonalds
MLB: healthy meal created by chefs
To take away:
•chicken nuggs in JUCO
Naturally, I liked him immediately.
I had a chance to speak with him, last week, and he was more than happy to share with us his path to the pros.
Clinton Riddle: Your profiles all mention that you were born in South Korea. What brought your family to Canada? Assuming you spent more than a few years there, what do you recall from your childhood years?
Eric Sim: Yes, I was. We had some other family members already living in Canada, so it was a choice my parents made when I was younger. They did tell me it was mainly because of the situation in Korea, where I was not getting any education and just playing baseball, hoping to make it. I spent a year in elementary school and five years in high school in Canada. Most of those years I didn’t speak English, or spoke very limited English, so it wasn’t easy. Had to learn fast, though, as I had to catch all of them. Had to communicate, somehow. (laughs)
CR: Would you say that you were the sort of player who was absolutely sure of his future? How certain were you that pro baseball was where you were heading?
ES: No, not at all. I didn’t even know what scouts were until I went to USF. Out of high school I was not recruited at all, so I only talked to a few JUCOs, and the only one that offered a scholarship was Colby Community College, where I ended up signing. Still, to this day, it was the most fun I had playing baseball, and the biggest learning curve.
It was all a surreal dream, really, then it became much more realistic at USF, as I played well in fall ball. I talked to 25 teams and their scouts, and filled out all of their questionnaires, which were a pain in the ass to fill out. (laughs)
CR: How would you describe yourself as a high-school player? What would you say were your strong points, and conversely, your weaknesses?
ES: Competition in Canada isn’t anything like it is in the States, so I was an above-average player in high school. Nothing special. And again, I only talked to a few schools my senior year in high school. My strong point was that I always had a pretty good arm; my weakness has always been hitting.
CR: So, after high school, you attended Colby Community College in Colby, Kansas. You made Second Team All-Conference in the Jayhawk League, led the team with six homers, and made an impression as a strong-armed catcher with excellent pop times. Baseball America had you as the 8th-best prospect in that league. In what ways would you say attending community college helped you prep for a four-year university?
ES: I was fortunate enough to be recruited from Colby CC, as I really think that was the turnaround of my baseball career. Like, I thought I was kind of good and all that out of high school, then went to JUCO, first day of practice everyone was good. I ended up playing like shit my first year. It was pretty much a wake-up call, and I had to figure things out real quick, so I worked my ass off along with getting help from coaches who I still talk to (Ryan Carter). I played well my second year, ended up talking to around 50-60 schools with offers. It really gave me an opportunity to take my skills to the next level and I got exposure, especially at the sophomore showcase that was held in the Jayhawk League. Again, to this day, I still say the second year of JUCO was the year I had the most fun playing baseball in my 20 years of playing. I highly recommend the JUCO route.
CR: After the 2009 season, you moved on to USF. The Giants picked you in the 27th round in 2010. Did they contact you before they selected you, or was it a surprise? Can you tell us about the process involved in entering the pro ranks outside of the televised rounds?
ES: I talked to the Giants’ scout a few rounds before I was selected, but it was more like a surprise. I was actually very disappointed at the round I was picked, so I debated whether to go back to school or not. I talked to our coach and he said I might not have a starting spot when I come back; I was already leaning towards signing as I am not much of a student, so that kind of did it. In fact, true story, I stopped watching the draft after the 15th round then my phone blew up around when I was getting drafted. Initially, I talked to the Braves a lot, and they said they were going to take me between the 8th and 10th rounds. Ended up talking to 25 teams, but the Braves were on me the most.
CR: In 2011 with the AZL Giants, you shredded opposing pitchers; .352 BA, 1.024 OPS, 20 XBH in 43 games, and gunned down 45% of base-stealers. Between your first two seasons (2010-2011), were there any coaches whose advice really stuck with you? Do you remember any players who stood out?
ES: Derin McMains and Mike Goff. D-Mac really got things out of me that I didn’t even think existed. FYI: I hit like .100 the first year after signing.
He was almost too smart for me, but it worked well because I was a dumbass (laughs). He now works for the Seattle Mariners. And Goffy was a manager that just cared for you as a human being, and to this day he’s the best manager I’ve ever had. I still talk to him from time to time on Facebook. Well, mostly him talking shit to me and me wearing it (laughs). If they wouldn’t have been there, I wouldn’t have had the success I had.
D-Mac recently tweeted at me, saying it was me that did (what I did) or whatever, but I don’t believe it. They helped me a ton, and that’s an understatement. We made it to the AZL championship game, so we had a lot of good players on our team, a lot of stand-outs.
CR: The 2012 season was a short one, when you spent the majority of your season with Augusta (17 games, .196 BA, .599 OPS). What happened that year?
ES: I broke down; a ton of pressure, longer season, brutal traveling, had zero discipline at the plate, swung at everything, caught like shit...everything fell apart. So the Giants told me to go learn from the veterans in Triple-A, where I was sent for a week, and I was going to be the everyday guy in Short-Season. Then I got hurt while catching a pen in Triple-A.
CR: Skipping ahead to 2015, the Giants put you on the mound full-time as a short reliever, with good results. What led to that decision? Who was it that said to you, ‘Hey, we’re taking you from behind the plate and putting you in front of it’? You had some time on the mound in college. Was it something you had thought about, before they made you a regular in the ‘pen?
ES: They pretty much said “try this as a last resort” since I wasn’t playing much behind the plate, So it wasn’t really my choice (laughs). In fact, and a lot of my buddies would back me on this, but I was always against pitching.
First coach to get me to try pitching was Steve Kline, who was our pitching coach in Augusta (Low-A). He told me to throw a pen just for fun, which I did. I caught the next day. The day after that he said I was hot, and I got in to pitch for the first time against Charleston. Hit 92 on the gun (laughs), so I was brought back to instructs as a pitcher.
Actually, I’ve never pitched in college or high school. Again, I’ve never once thought about becoming a pitcher, really, before that, although I’ve heard a lot from my teammates and coaches, as I did have a good arm behind the plate.
CR: After a 2.53 ERA in 26 appearances, the Giants (seemed to) unceremoniously released you. How did they approach that? Did you think it was coming?
ES: I was released by a 15-minute phone call in the off-season (laughs). In 15 minutes I was out of a job, and that ended any chance of making the dream become a reality. It didn’t surprise me, though, as I was a 25-year-old right-handed reliever at the time, throwing 90-94. I mean, let’s be real: that is not going to cut it at this level.
CR: You pitched in a handful of games for the Winnipeg Goldeyes in the American Association. Were you released, or did you decide it was time to retire? I noticed that you had majored in gerontology; did you feel like something in that field would figure into your future plans?
ES: I was released. I walked nine hitters in six innings (laughs). I hit 97 MPH, though, which was bad-ass (laughs). Indy ball is not about velocity as much as affiliated; it’s all about putting up numbers. Of course, I did, but then I ended up finishing that year throwing for a semi-pro team in Seattle while training at Driveline’s baseball facility.
I did major in gerontology. Me and the athletic advisor pretty much picked it out of a hat, because that’s how much I cared about education at the time (laughs). I had no desire to go back to school after baseball. I even had scholarship money left from the Giants (15,000), but decided not to pursue school, and instead got into the bar business. It’s all good, though, and I definitely don’t regret that decision.
CR: So you’ve been working behind the bar in Duncan, British Columbia, for a few years now. How did you end up going from baseball to bartending? It took you just over a year to become the bar manager, and I imagine your Wine and Spirit Education Trust certification helped in that regard.
ES: Yes, I used to bartend on weekends in the off-season, and took over as a bar manager immediately after joining them after I left baseball. It is my family business, so it was easier to get my foot in the door, but I actually make some bad-ass drinks. Check my Instagram (@esim3400) if you’re thirsty. I actually studied Wine and Spirit Education Trust after being promoted to bar manager, as I wanted to get better at this thing in every way possible.
I passed level 1 this past year, and I’m currently studying for my level 2 test in December.
CR: You’re a former pro who holds nothing back about his minor-league experiences. What would a typical road trip entail for you? Do you have any particularly memorable stories you’d like to share? (I’ve got plenty of room, for this article; please feel free to share whatever you see fit.)
ES: No I don’t hold anything back because I say “why the [expletive] not?” There aren’t too many people talking about the stuff I talk about, and I feel like sharing some of what I went through, some of my experience. A typical road trip...well, travel day, looks like this.
(*per an interview I did with Eno Sarris from the Athletic)
3:00 PM: Get to the field.
3:00 PM – 3:30 PM: Heat up the arm, arm stretch by trainer, and mound work if needed.
3:30 PM – 4:30 PM: Cage work, tee work, front toss, some batting practice in the cage.
4:30 PM: Practice
4:30 PM – 5:30 PM: Warm up, play catch, take infield, team defense, more BP.
5:30 PM – 6:30 PM: Pregame meal
6:30 PM – 6:45 PM: Cage warm up before game
7:00 PM – 10:00+ PM: Game
10:00 PM – 11:00 PM: Ice, cold tub, post-recovery stuff, shower, post game meal, pack for bus.
11:00 PM – 11:00 AM: Augusta GA to Lexington KY, with a few bathroom & food breaks
11:00 AM – 3:00 PM: Sleep for a few hours in a Days Inn
I mean, I have way too many stories about road trips. Maybe we can do the stories another time? (laughs)
CR: What are your thoughts on the poor pay and benefits that minor-leaguers deal with, and how would you resolve it? Have you ever run into anyone in the front office who was very helpful to the players, and conversely, got under players’ skin?
ES: I’m for a raise for the minor-leaguers, as there are other sports (NBA, NHL) that are way more advanced than MLB, in which their minor-league players get paid a lot more than we do.
I think minimum wage is a fair solution. I’ve met quite a few front office staff from the Giants, and they were mostly nice, but at the same time, front office staff ain’t gonna play for you, nor pay you more money “just because”.
CR: What’s your favorite fan-related story?
ES: In Double-A (with the Richmond Flying Squirrels), we were doing Cancer Awareness Night. So there were a bunch of kids in front of the dugout with us, and this half-Asian kid kept on looking at me. So I went up to him and had a short conversation with him. Then the game started, so that was it.
After the game we had a jersey silent auction, and his parents bought my jersey. I talked to the dad and found out his wife was Korean. He said I was his son’s favorite player.
I asked for the kid’s name and was it Eric, as well. Eric was battling leukemia.
I got sent back down to Low-A shortly after that, but we kept on staying in touch. Eric beat leukemia like a boss, last year.
CR: If you had it all to do again, would you change anything about your time as a player? What would you tell 20-year-old Eric?
ES: I wouldn’t really tell him anything, because I’ve had experiences that I never thought I would’ve had. I learned a shit-ton along the way, so if I had changed something I wouldn’t have experienced those things that mean so much now.