The last time Ji-Man Choi was in Milwaukee, back in May 2016, he didn’t have an ideal experience. The South Korean first baseman, then with the Los Angeles Angels, went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts during the three-game series against the Brewers. Also, he was visited by a ghost in his bed at the supposedly haunted Pfister Hotel on the Angels’ first night in town and slept "not good. Not good."
But the thing about playing for the home club in Milwaukee is you don’t have to stay at The Pfister. Presumably, that’s what Choi was thinking when he signed a minor-league contract with the Brewers on Monday.
The deal, which includes an invitation to spring training and big-league performance incentives, according to MLB.com, is a win-win for both sides. The Brewers improve their organizational depth and take a low-cost chance on a young hitter; Choi gets an opportunity to make a major-league roster without staying at a haunted hotel.
Of course, that's no guarantee he won’t still have ghostly encounters. In fact, from his past comments, Choi probably still will and he seems totally cool with that.
Here’s what a certifiably awesome Choi told MLB.com in 2016 about a couple of other supernatural interactions he's had:
"I've seen ghosts plenty of times," Choi said through his interpreter, Jae Park.
The first time, Choi said, was shortly after back surgery in 2011. He felt a spirit on his chest that awoke him, and then he felt the bed slump.
"I was scared at first," Choi said, "so I didn't want to open my eyes. I dealt with that a lot more times after that."
Another time, Choi claims to have been laying on his side when he felt a spirit crawling up behind him, then felt a hug and heard some murmuring in his ear. Other South Korean Minor League players, the only ones he could communicate with at the time, claimed to have felt the same thing.
Choi always has a hard time sleeping in hotel beds. When he's comfortable, "It means there's a ghost," he said. That, Choi claims, was the case on Sunday. He was asked what he thinks about spending two more nights at the same Pfister Hotel where he felt that spirit.
"I hope it's a girl," Choi said, bursting in laugher. "Nah, nah. Just kidding, you know. … I've dealt with it so many times, I don't really care anymore."
Sounds like he rather enjoys the company of an ethereal night caller.
The 26-year-old Choi had 18 plate appearances for the New York Yankees last season, batting .120 with two home runs. He spent most of 2017 with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he hit .288 with 15 homers in 338 plate appearances.
Per MLB.com, his contract with the Brewers could be worth up to $1.5 million ($850,000 salary, plus bonuses). With Eric Thames the incumbent starter at first base, Choi will compete for a roster spot at the position with backup Jesus Aguilar, though he also has experience in left field. A platoon of Thames – who was beloved in South Korea before signing with the Brewers – and the animated Choi would surely provide the rest of the league some priceless first-base banter.
With Los Angeles in 2016, Choi played in 54 games, batting .170 with five home runs, including his first career major-league dinger. And, when his fellow Angels didn’t adequately congratulate him for the accomplishment in the dugout, Choi celebrated instead with some ghost teammates.
I think we’re going to like this guy, Milwaukee. Let's hope he makes the team. Brewers Spring Training starts a month from now.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.