Temple law student and professors assist Asian athletes in the U.S.
During the 2013 baseball season, approximately 60 players from Asian countries competed in Major League Baseball (MLB) and its farm systems. Often, those players face unique challenges associated with moving to the U.S. In addition to learning a new language and acclimating to unfamiliar foods and climates, they must learn the differences in traveling distances, training schedules and practice regimens, how to weather media expectations, and become familiar with the design of U.S. baseballs and stadiums.
A new company founded by Han Lee, Class of 2014; Practice Professor of Law Ken Jacobsen; and former Temple professor N. Jeremi Duru aims to ease that dramatic change.
Lee—who came to the U.S. at 15 as an exchange student—approached Duru for suggestions about how he might pursue a career in the sports industry. Duru told him to consider what strengths and skills he could bring to the field. Lee thought of his own experiences after coming to the U.S. and realized Asian players faced similar challenges.
Duru and Lee then met with Jacobsen—co-owner of the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a single “A” affiliate team of the Kansas City Royals—and shared his expertise. After a few months of brainstorming and meeting some of Jacobsen’s contacts, the idea for Global Sporting Integration (GSI) was born. The company launched in June 2013 with Lee as CEO.
“Lee’s personal experience with the difficult transition to the U.S. thoroughly informs our vision and mission,” Duru said. “He’s also extremely conscientious and manages his time really well. I don’t think very many students could get it all done.”
Unlike a sports agency, GSI seeks to work directly with MLB and its clubs to ease the change for Asian players. The firm’s programming includes pre-departure preparation, English-language education, nutritional consulting, cultural immersion and more. Those initiatives begin in the player’s home countries and guide them through their moves.
“When an MLB team signs a player from Asia, the team is not simply adding a new member to its roster—it is bringing a person to start a new life in a foreign environment,” Lee explained. “The challenges of transitioning to professional baseball players in America also are ongoing challenges for the MLB and have cost many promising players their careers, resulting in large financial losses for both the players and their clubs.”
Jacobsen, principal of GSI, noted that helping those players get acclimated can ensure successful careers for them. Without that help, it could mean truncated careers for the players and substantial losses for the teams. “These challenges have played a part in the premature end of the careers of several high-profile Asian MLB signees, resulting in millions lost,” he said.
The firm’s initial focus is on baseball players, but its founders hope to expand into other sports.