Garcia lauds Korean colleagues

Mexico outfielder has benefitted from playing overseas

Karim Garcia hit .283 with 30 homers and 111 RBIs for Lotte Giants in Korea last season. (Claudio Cruz/AP)

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SAN DIEGO -- Mexico outfielder Karim Garcia might still be in the Major Leagues if he had started his playing career in Korea.

He knows he would be a better player.

"I think so," Garcia, 34, "It's a lot better workout."

Garcia is a baseball expert of sorts here at the World Baseball Classic because he has played the game all over the world.

Last season, Garcia hit .283 with 30 home runs and 111 RBIs for Lotte Giants in Korea. During his 10-year Major League career, hit .241 with 66 home runs and 212 RBIs in 488 games with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Tigers, Orioles, Indians, Yankees and Mets, starting in 1995.

Garcia also played in Japan in 2005.

"I respect the way [Koreans] play. They play the game the right way," he said. "They do the little things like bunting the runners over and trying to get the extra base every time they can. They play hard and they play well. They are a very competitive team, and you have to keep that in consideration when you play them."

Like in the Major Leagues, Garcia said video and scouting are an important part of the daily preparation for games in Korea. But unlike in the United States, players are peppered with a steady dose of fly balls and ground balls before they can hit in the cages. It's not uncommon for a hitting coach to pull a player aside and have him work on a specific drill, like hitting the ball to the opposite field for an hour, Garcia said.

The extra work comes with benefits.

"It has taught me to go the other way with power and it shows up in my average," he said.

The extra work is not optional.

"You do what they say. It's the culture," Garcia added. "You are finished when you say they are finished. Plus, when you see your teammates doing 20 or 30 minutes of fly balls and I do five minutes, it looks bad on me, especially since I am a foreigner and I'm in their country."

When Garcia and his Mexico teammates squared off against Korea on Sunday night, he faced many of his new Korean friends, including Lotte teammates Ki Hyuk Park, Dae Ho Lee, Min Ho Kang and Min Han Son. That said, there was no conflict of interest and there was no doubt where he pledged allegiance.

"When I play, I play to win," Garcia said. "I respect the Korean national team, but when I am playing for my country, I have to do my best for us to win."

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.