ST. LOUIS (KTVI)–Saturday morning should have been the first day of the annual Winter Warm-Up, a staple of the baseball offseason in St. Louis where fans reconnect with the Cardinals, meeting current and former players and coaches, building excitement for the 2022 season. Thanks to the ongoing labor lockout, the Warm-Up was canceled.
But all was not lost for Hot Stove fans, and we have a teenager and a dog to thank for it.
The St. Louis Cardinals announced the signing of 18-year-old outfielder Won-Bin-Cho, a power-hitting prospect from South Korea, the first amateur player from Asia to agree to terms with the Cardinals. The team did so through its Player Development Twitter account which featured a picture of Cho, his agent Han Lee and Matt Slater, from the St. Louis front office.
And there was someone else. A very good boy, a three-year-old golden retriever, Henny.
Lee, the agent, owns Henny, his brother Sparty and their mother Lana. While Lee tells FOX2 he’s brought a dog along on road trips before, it’s the first time one of the pups has played such a prominent role at a signing event. Henny got the honors because he was best of the three at being calm around other people.
Lee has shared the dogs’ adventures on an Instagram account long before Saturday, but he was still genuinely surprised by the attention that’s come since the Cardinals’ tweet went out, with that photo, setting off a wave of retweets and comments. Then Cho tweeted out a photo with the two of them in matching Cardinals caps. “We were all very shocked. I helped create the Twitter account for Won-Bin and he’s been tweeting a little bit. he decided to tweet the picture of him and Henny and we didn’t think that much of it. Three to four days later that drew thousands of followers. I think that particular photo has gotten nearly 1 million impressions and it was totally unexpected,” Lee said. “It’s not what we intended to do at all but I guess everyone loves a cute golden retriever I suppose.”
Soon Lee’s phone was full of texts from the U.S. and Asia, where Henny’s picture figured prominently in coverage of the signing.
Lee said all the attention actually had his client, who he said would have been a top draft pick in the Korean Baseball Organization had he not decided to come to the U.S., wondering if fans were more excited about the Cho or the dog. Some people have wondered who the dog actually belongs to, Cho, or Lee.
To be clear, the Cardinals have only signed the baseball player, although Lee said Cho has already requested a spring training visit. Lee’s other clients in the U.S., include Josh Lindblom of the Milwaukee Brewers and Jay Jackson of the Atlanta Braves. But the early indications are that Henny may have dibs when it comes to the Cardinals. Sparty may have to step up to the plate if a Lee client signs with say, the Chicago Cubs.
And to think that when Cho first came to stay with Lee’s family in Atlanta to get ready for what led to Saturday’s signing, he was afraid of dogs.
“When he first moved into our place it was actually a big problem because he had never been around especially large dogs before and now they’re all very close, so it’s a fun moment to see,” Lee said.