1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rays

Folk hero. First baseman. Rays fans fall for Ji-Man Choi

Ji-Man Choi has turned into something of hero at Tropicana Field. His performance and actions during the American League Division Series with Houston affirmed that status.
Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi (26) celebrates after hitting a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida on Sunday, August 18, 2019. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi (26) celebrates after hitting a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida on Sunday, August 18, 2019. [OCTAVIO JONES | TIMES | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Oct. 9, 2019
Updated Oct. 9, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG – “Ji-Man Choi. Ji-Man Choi,” a crowd of Rays fans chant in the Tropicana Field parking lot before Tuesday’s Game 4 with Houston.

Tampa Bay picked up the Korean first baseman in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers in June 2018. The Rays sent Brad Miller and cash considerations to pick up the journeyman. In his four-year major-league career, he has already played for four different franchises.

Now, he’s beloved in Tampa Bay.

“Ji-Man Choi. Ji-Man Choi,” the Trop crowd roars as their first baseman draws a first-inning walk. He came around to score on a Travis d’Arnaud single, giving the Rays a 2-0 lead in the first.

“That was the first time I’ve actually heard anything like that,’’ Choi said via team translator Ha Ram (Sam) Jeong before Tuesday’s game. “I was happy to hear them chanting my name and getting excited.’’

In the top of the third, Choi picked off a Josh Reddick liner to end the inning. He then fired the ball into the stands, all the way into section 312 of the upper deck.

“That’s pretty cool. It’s like another level of fan appreciation,” said Greg Hunsinger, a fan from St. Petersburg who caught the ball 14 rows deep in the Trop’s third level. “You don’t have to go all that way, but he did.”

Greg Hunsinger, 47, St. Petersburg, caught a ball thrown by Rays first baseman Ji-Man Choi in the upper deck in ALDS game 3 on Oct. 8, 2019. [Ryan Kolakowski]

“Ji-Man Choi. Ji-Man Choi,” they shouted after he drew a fourth-inning walk to chase Verlander from the game.

The chants rang out again when Choi pulled off an unassisted double play to end the fourth inning. And again when he stepped up to the plate before striking out in the sixth.

“Ji-Man Choi. Ji-Man Choi.”

Contact Ryan Kolakowski at Follow @RyanKolakowski


  1. Former White Sox manager Tony La Russa stands with his Baseball Hall of Fame plaque while being honored before a game in Chicago on Aug.  30, 2014. [MATT MARTON  |  AP]
    "There was a toggle switch in the manager’s office and a camera zoomed in on the catcher,” Jack McDowell says of the setup he claims was installed by the Hall of Fame manager.
  2. In this 2007 file photo, Alyssa Nakken making the all-metro softball team at Woodland High School in Sacramento, Calif. [RENEE T. BONNAFON  |]
    Alyssa Nakken, 29, a former standout softball player at Sacramento State, will be in uniform for the big-league team, though not in the dugout during games.
  3. After five winning seasons, and four playoff appearances, in Chicago, Joe Maddon will return to the Angels where he spent 12 seasons as a big league coach before coming to Tampa Bay. [JEFF GRITCHEN  |]
    As he gets nearer to Hall of Fame standards, the former Rays manager is contemplating a return to some old-style baseball ideas in his new gig as the Angels manager.
  4. New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran listens to a question during the Major League Baseball winter meetings on Dec. 10, 2019. [GREGORY BULL  |  AP]
    The move comes after the Astros and Red Sox also lose their managers.
  5. In this Oct. 31, 2018, file photo, Red Sox manager Alex Cora rides with the trophy during a parade in Boston to celebrate the team's World Series championship over the Dodgers. Cora was fired by the Red Sox on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, a day after baseball commissioner Rob Manfred implicated him in the sport's sign-stealing scandal. [CHARLES KRUPA  |  AP]
    All Major League Baseball might have to do to solve its sign-stealing problem is look no further than what’s going on in the college game.
  6. Alex Cora was an Astros assistant coach before the Red Sox hired him as manager in 2018, when he led Boston to a World Series title. [DAVID J. PHILLIP  |  AP]
    Major League Baseball continues to investigate a scandal that could include Boston.
  7. The Rays have no worries about Yoshitomo Tsutsugo's bat, but they're going to watch him closely in the spring to figure out whether he fits better at third base or a corner outfield position. [SHIZUO KAMBAYASHI  |  AP]
    Defense remains strong up the middle, but could get a little wobbly elsewhere as the Rays try to figure out the best place to slot everyone in.
  8. Only 29 days until Rays pitchers and catchers report to spring training in Port Charlotte. Single-game tickets for games at Charlotte Sports Park go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. on
    Tampa Bay plays a 16-game home schedule at Charlotte Sports Park, then comes home for a one-game exhibition against prospects at Tropicana Field on March 24.
  9. At 6-foot-10, Aaron Slegers became the tallest pitcher in Rays history when he made his first and only appearance for Tampa Bay on Aug. 23, 2019 at Baltimore. Slegers threw three innings of one-run ball to get his first big league save. [JULIO CORTEZ  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay boosts its depth at Triple-A Durham by signing a handful of players with big-league experience who could come in handy in case of injuries.
  10. Ji-Man Choi's strikeout ended the American League Division Series for the Rays in October, but Major League Baseball says there is no evidence the Astros were breaking the rules to steal signs during the 2019 postseason. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    Tampa Bay went 8-6 against the Astros in 2017-18 when MLB says Houston was breaking rules. The commissioner’s office says the cheating stopped before the 2019 postseason.