Refsnyder with the Yankees in 2016
|New York Yankees – No. 36|
|Second baseman / Right fielder / First baseman|
March 26, 1991 |
Seoul, South Korea
|July 11, 2015, for the New York Yankees|
(through 2016 season)
|Runs batted in||17|
Robert Daniel Refsnyder (born Kim Jung-tae (김정태), March 26, 1991) is a Korean American professional baseball second baseman, right fielder, and first baseman for the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball (MLB). He made his MLB debut in 2015.
Refsnyder was born in Seoul, South Korea, and adopted by a couple from Southern California when he was five months old. He became a three-sport star at Laguna Hills High School, and enrolled at the University of Arizona, where he played college baseball for the Arizona Wildcats as their right fielder. Winning the 2012 College World Series (CWS) with the Arizona Wildcats baseball team, Refsnyder was named the CWS Most Outstanding Player. The Yankees selected Refsnyder in the fifth round of the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft. The Yankees converted him into a second baseman, and he became one of their top prospects.
Refsnyder was born Kim Jung-tae in Seoul, South Korea. When he was five months old, Rob was adopted by Jane and Clint Refsnyder, a couple of German and Irish descent from Laguna Hills, California, through Holt International Children's Services. Rob became a fan of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, rooting for Vladimir Guerrero. He attended annual basketball games of the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas with his father.
Clint, a former college basketball player at Muhlenberg College, never let Rob win at anything, pushing him to compete at his best. Rob did not beat Clint at a pick-up game of basketball until he was 17.
Refsnyder attended Laguna Hills High School in Laguna Hills, California. He played baseball, basketball, and American football at Laguna Hills. He played as a wide receiver and outside linebacker for the football team in his junior year, and as the quarterback in his senior year. In his senior season, he was named his division's Offensive Player of the Year for the football team and co-most valuable player for the baseball team. Colleges in the Pacific-10 Conference recruited Refsnyder to play quarterback for their football teams.
Enrolling at the University of Arizona, Refsnyder played college baseball for the Arizona Wildcats baseball team in the Pacific-10 Conference. In his freshman year, in the 2010 season, Refsnyder was an All-Pacific-10 Honorable Mention. After his sophomore season, Refsnyder played collegiate summer baseball for the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod Baseball League. As a junior during the 2012 Wildcats season, Refsnyder batted .352, leading the Wildcats with six home runs, and recording 63 runs batted in (RBIs) and 12 stolen bases. In the first game of the 2012 College World Series (CWS), Refsnyder hit a home run. He was named the CWS Most Outstanding Player, as Refsnyder batted 10-for-21 (.476) in the 2012 CWS and the Wildcats defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The New York Yankees drafted Refsnyder in the fifth round, with the 187th overall selection, in the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft. Though a right fielder for Arizona, the Yankees profiled Refsnyder as a second baseman. Refsnyder signed with the Yankees on July 6, receiving a $205,900 signing bonus. He reported to the Charleston RiverDogs of the Class A South Atlantic League, where he made his professional debut on July 10. He batted .241 for Charleston.
The Yankees assigned Refsnyder to Charleston to start the 2013 season. After posting a .370 batting average and a .452 on-base percentage (OBP) in 13 games, Refsnyder was promoted to the Tampa Yankees of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League on April 19. He batted .283 in 117 games for Tampa, hitting six home runs and recording 51 RBIs. Between the two levels, he had a .408 OBP and a .404 slugging percentage.
Refsnyder began the 2014 season with the Trenton Thunder of the Class AA Eastern League. With the help of Marcus Thames, the Thunder's hitting coach, Refsnyder made changes to his swing that reduced unnecessary movement, resulting in an increase in his power output. He won the Eastern League Player of the Week Award for the week of May 26 – June 1. After batting .342 with six home runs in 60 games for Trenton, including a .430 average in his last 28 games, while also improving his defense at second base, the Yankees promoted Refsnyder to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders of the Class AAA International League on June 10.
After batting .371 with three home runs in his first 19 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Yankees' General Manager Brian Cashman described Refsnyder's progress as "pretty impressive", and added that "he's forcing us to pay attention." Cashman had Refsnyder play in the outfield to prepare for a possible promotion to the major leagues. The Yankees had Refsnyder finish the season with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he finished the season with a .300 average, eight home runs, and 33 RBIs in 77 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The Yankees' gave Refsnyder an opportunity to compete for a spot with the major league team in 2015, but assigned him to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to start the season so that he could continue to work on his defense. After he batted .290 with seven home runs, 17 doubles, and 37 RBIs in 81 games, the Yankees promoted Refsnyder to the major leagues on July 11. With his callup, Refsnyder became the fourth position player in MLB history to be born in South Korea, following Hee-seop Choi, Shin-Soo Choo, and Jung-ho Kang. He made his major league debut on July 11, and recorded his first two hits, including a two-run home run, on July 12. After playing four games, where he batted 2-for-13 (.167), the Yankees optioned Refsnyder to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to activate Carlos Beltrán from the disabled list. He batted .225 in the second half of the RailRiders' season.
The Yankees promoted Refsnyder to New York on September 1 as part of their September call-ups. Refsnyder played infrequently, with the Yankees initially using José Pirela, until late September, when he began to receive more regular playing time. He ended the regular season with a .302 average, and started for the Yankees in the 2015 American League Wild Card Game, which they lost.
The Yankees began to play Refsnyder as a third baseman during spring training in 2016. The team optioned him to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on March 27. He split his playing time at third base, second base, and right field before the Yankees promoted him to the major leagues on May 17. Following injuries to first baseman Mark Teixeira and Dustin Ackley, the Yankees began to play Refsnyder at first base. He batted .262 in 122 at-bats before he was optioned back to the RailRiders on August 11. He was again promoted to the major leagues as a September call-up.
Three years before the Refsnyders adopted Rob, they adopted a girl, Elizabeth, also from South Korea. She played college softball at Kenyon College. Refsnyder hopes to visit South Korea with his sister in order to learn about the culture of Korea and the Korean language. He is also supportive of adoption, and hopes to adopt in the future. Refsnyder helped to design a T-shirt to raise money for A Kid’s Place, an organization in the Tampa Bay Area that helps foster children.
Refsnyder met his wife, Monica (née Drake) while they were both students at the University of Arizona in 2012. She is an All-American swimmer and competed in the 2008 and 2012 United States Olympic Trials, attempting to qualify for the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics. They were married in December 2015.
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- Jennings, Chad (September 8, 2016). "Refsnyder reaches out to abandoned kids with Overachieve message". The Journal News. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
- Hansen, Greg (June 27, 2012). "Swimming: At 16, Borendame full of nerves but says, 'it felt good'". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
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