By Jason Cruz
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
2023 was a big year for API athletes.
The year started with the Seattle Mariners acquiring Kolten Wong in a trade. However, that did not work out for the Mariners or Wong. Bryan Woo made his Mariners debut in June after being called up from the minor leagues. His impressive first season included filling a spot in the starting pitching rotation and becoming a good foundation for the future.
The Seattle Seahawks had a surprising season that ended in the playoffs. In the 2023 NFL Draft, they picked UCLA running back Zack Charbonnet in the second round. Charbonnet is part Cambodian and is a contributing part of the Seahawks rushing attack.
The Seattle Kraken had a successful second season ending in the second round of the playoffs. In the offseason, the team signed Kailer Yamamoto of Spokane, Washington. Thus far, Yamamoto has 7 goals in the season whereas he only had 4 for all of last season for the Edmonton Oilers.
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup happened this past summer in Australia and New Zealand. Notably, it was the Philippines National Team’s first appearance. They went 1-2 and did not pass the group stage. Spain defeated England in the finale.
Seattle professional women’s soccer team, OL Reign, made it to the National Women’s Soccer League Championship and finished as runners-up to NJ/NY Gotham FC.
The Seattle Sounders FC made it back to the playoffs but fell short of the MLS Cup as they lost to LAFC.
The Major League Baseball season saw several standout players this season. First, the New York Yankees picked Anthony Volpe to be their starting shortstop for the season. Next, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll had a great season and was the Rookie of the Year. Miami Marlins GM Kim Ng put together a team that unexpectedly made the playoffs only for her to leave in the same year. Finally, it was the year of Shohei Ohtani as he led Team Japan to win the World Baseball Classic and went on to become a two-time MVP of Major League Baseball. He also decided to head up Interstate 5 in Southern California as he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The list below is of the top Asian American sports figures of 2023:
- Bryanna and Kylie Nguyen: The two local golfers scored the chance of a lifetime as the high schoolers played at Pebble Beach this past fall. As part of the First Tee Organization, Bryanna played with PGA Tour Champion pro Fred Couples, while Kylie played with Gary Hallberg. Although they share the same name, they are not related, but have worked closely in mentoring younger golfers, as well as putting on a summer golf tournament for charity. The famed golf course of Pebble Beach in northern California was the reward for the two.
- Bryan Woo: The 23-year-old made his debut in June 2023 for the Mariners. Woo showed that he could hold his own in the major leagues with a 3-2 record, 2.05 earned run average, and 59 strikeouts in 9 starts. One of his starts was in his native San Francisco where family (including his grandparents) and friends could see him pitch in person.
- Kyle Hamilton: The Baltimore Ravens safety is considered to be one of the best in the National Football League. The 22-year-old Hamilton played collegiately at Notre Dame before being drafted in the first round by the Ravens in 2022. His father was a professional basketball player in Greece, where he was born before his family moved to the Atlanta area.
- Casey Phair: Phair is a Korean American soccer player who became the youngest player to ever appear in a women’s World Cup. The 16-year-old Phair was playing for the South Korean under-17 team when she was called up to the senior team to play in the FIFA World Cup. She played in all three of South Korea’s group stage games this past summer and in its team’s final match against Germany. Phair plays at a soccer academy in New Jersey.
- Angela Zhang: The Bellevue teenager is a golfing phenomenon. She is not related to Rose Zhang but she is well on her way. The 14-year-old has won the Washington Women’s Amateur Championship twice. Last year, she was the youngest to ever win the tournament. Zhang earned a spot in the U.S. Women’s Open this year. She started Bellevue High School this fall.
- Jason Robertson: One of the best hockey players in the world is part Filipino from Southern California. Hard to imagine that Jason Robertson would be a goal-scoring machine, but he led the Dallas Stars last season to the Western Conference Championship. The Stars fell short to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
- Rose Zhang: The Stanford golfer turned pro this year amid much anticipation and with many sponsors associated with her. While at Stanford, she recorded the most wins in school history, 12 in just 20 events. She twice set the NCAA single-season scoring average record in both years she played for the Cardinal. She also was a two-time NCAA individual champion, the first woman to achieve that feat, and a two-time first team All-American.
- Kim Ng: The General Manager of the Miami Marlins made the moves to get the team to the playoffs in just her third year at the helm. Notably, she decided to leave the post as GM despite being the first woman and Asian American in that position. Rumors that ownership wanted someone to oversee her decisions seemed to be one of the reasons she decided to leave. Ng will be a hot commodity for several major league teams looking to fill the position.
- Anthony Volpe: The Filipino American Volpe was a prized prospect of the New York Yankees. He had a good spring training and the Yankees decided to make him their full-time shortstop. Volpe had a solid first year as a pro finishing with 21 home runs and 60 runs batted in. He also earned the American League Gold Glove Award at shortstop, given to the best fielder at each position.
- Corbin Carroll: The Seattle native had the opportunity to play in the MLB All-Star game in Seattle this past July for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Carroll’s mother is Taiwanese. While in Seattle, he made time to visit his old playfield on Queen Anne where he signed autographs for little leaguers. Carroll helped the Diamondbacks make the playoffs and earn a spot in the World Series where they eventually lost to the Texas Rangers. In addition, the 23-year-old was named Rookie of the Year to top off a remarkable 2023.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.