Phil Drendall, Cheongju's prodigal son, made his triumphant return to Cheongju in 2013 and hasn't looked back since. Whether you know him as the heart of the Cheongju Reapers baseball team, an ultimate frisbee friend, or resident restaurant reviewer for our own Cheongju Blog, you'll find few fellows friendlier than Phil:
How long have you been in Cheongju? What do you do here?
Well, I originally came to Cheongju about 7 years ago. I spent a couple years in Daejeon, but the ‘Ju never left my heart, so I came back to Cheongju in 2013 and have been here teaching English at an after-school program at an elementary school ever since.
What did you do pre-Cheongju, and what brought you here?
Before I came to Korea, I was desperately looking for a job back home. Unfortunately, and undergraduate degree in psychology does not get you very far these days. A friend from my university had been teaching in Cheongju and his contract had just finished. He recommended that if I wanted a change of scenery, I should check out Korea. I originally planned to be here for only a couple of years, but 7 years later, here I am, still having a blast.
What do you do for fun?
Of course I like mingling in Chungdae while enjoying an adult beverage or two, but I like to get out and play sports when I get the chance. I have been on the Cheongju Chewbaccas Ultimate Frisbee team, and I am a part of the Cheongju Reapers baseball team.
-Cheongju Reapers Baseball-
We know you as the resident restaurant reviewer (Cheongju Blog Tasty Tuesday), but also as a longtime leader of the Cheongju Reapers baseball team. How did the team get started?
Six years ago, a group of friends were talking about how fun it would be if we could start up a baseball team in the city for the English teachers and our friends could play. We knew that Korea was obsessed with the sport, so with the help of some Korean friends, we started up the Cheongju Reapers (we thought that a bunch of foreigners would be scary enough, so why not make an equally scary nickname?)
When you think back on your 5 years playing for the Reapers, what memories stand out? How has the team evolved?
There have been a lot of ups and downs for the team, but through it all, we still have a good time. Let’s just say, our team can be a little more….vocal and expressive than some of the opposing teams. It can lead to some confusion on our intent, but when the umpires and other teams see that we are laughing at each other and making fun of each other during the game, well, they don’t get offended as much. We started as a pretty serious team that took losing hard, but I think the last couple years have shown that the Reapers can be both competitive and laid back at the same time.
You indicated that the Reapers are recruiting players for next season: Who should consider joining the Reapers and why would you recommend checking out the team?
Anyone that has been an MLB all-star should definitely join the team. Other than that, if you love the game of baseball, have been interested in trying out a new sport, or just want to meet a good group of guys while playing some ball, come and check out a practice or a game! Most of the guys on the team last played organized baseball in elementary school or middle school, so tons of experience is not necessary. It is a great way to let of some steam, make some new friends, and discover hidden talents. Who knows? You may be a lot better than you think. This year's championship game is scheduled for December 20 at 12:30, so check us out if you can! Our future depends on having enough players to keep that strong Reapers tradition alive, so if you're interested in joining us, contact someone on the team.
What's your favorite time and place in Cheongju?
I love Cheongju in the fall. Back in Indiana where I am from, it is EXTREMELY flat. Picture a movie that takes place in the middle of nowhere, with cornfields as far as the eye can see. That is pretty much what we are talking about. Seeing the leaves changing colors on the mountains in the background of the city, though, still amazes me. Take a quick hike up to SanDang Mountain Fortress to get a better view, you won’t regret it.
What's something in Cheongju that everyone should do at least once?
This sounds kind of lame, but I would recommend trying to visit all parts of the city. I know that when I first came to Cheongju, I pretty much stayed either in my own neighborhood or Chungdae, maybe with a couple of trips downtown thrown in there. You can find some nice hidden gems all around the city. Like, did you know there is a glow-in-the-dark bowling pub in Sannam-dong? Or a huge park with places to grill along Musim-cheon? Don’t limit yourself to just a few spots you feel comfortable with.
Any advice for Cheongju-ers?
Learning Korean has opened a whole lot of doors for me. Even though my Korean is far from perfect, being able to read the alphabet and understand a few key phrases has been very beneficial. Take a little time to study and practice it with some of your friends. Even showing effort in trying to speak the language will make many Koreans more willing to help you out in times of need. Most of us are teachers, and know how frustrating it can be when a student doesn’t even try to talk. The same goes for us! Just give it a shot, and you will discover a new side of life in Korea.