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Backing up BK
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The Arizona Diamondbacks have BK's back. They take care of their closer, and they believe in him, and they'll be all over anybody who tries to mess with him or take advantage of him. He's their guy, and they don't have a problem letting you know it.

For Byung-Hyun Kim, it's good to have friends.

The man has needed them, that's for sure. He needed them even before the World Series, when late-night comics were warming up the audience by saying "Byung-Hyun Kim is Korean for Bill Buckner."

The Diamondbacks take care of BK because they've seen him grow up. They know there's a distinct difference between Kim and the other Asian stars who have made an impact on the big leagues the last few years. Ichiro and Nomo and Shinjo all made it there first -- but Kim made it here, as a kid, on the big stage. They saw the mistakes he made (sleeping in a room off the bullpen during games, bringing burgers into the bullpen), and they've seen how hard he's worked to both fit in and succeed.

These guys -- these friends -- aren't going to let three homers in the World Series (a World Series they won, they're eager to add) foul any of it.

Todd Stottlemyre pulls up a chair next to his locker, offers it and starts talking. He watched Kim be indoctrinated into two cultures -- America and the big leagues -- and he was fascinated by it. Stottlemyre grew up as the son of a big-leaguer, and he remembers wondering if he was saying the right thing or doing the right thing when he broke into the show. He watched Kim and wondered what must be going through his mind -- the game, the culture, the language, the customs. Where do you start?

"He didn't know what was going on," Stottlemyre said. "Do you realize how strong you have to be to make your way in this game when you don't even understand what people are saying? It's hard enough when you speak the language, and to have everything coming at him at once? I think what this kid has done is incredible."

And that's why they stick by him. I walked around the Diamondbacks clubhouse talking to players about Kim and it was the closest I've felt to being in a house of false walls. Mark Grace, Mike Morgan, Damian Miller, Steve Finley -- they all wanted to make sure this wasn't a magazine story that would dwell on old wounds.

"As far as I can tell, he's fine," manager Bob Brenly said. "I haven't been given any reason to believe he's been affected by this. Obviously, it might have been different if we'd lost, but I guess we'll never know that, will we?"

So far, Kim looks more than fine. Not only does he appear unaffected by his World Series misfortune, he seems energized by it. In his first 10 appearances, he has five saves, a 0.84 ERA and a remarkable 20 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings. That's 20 strikeouts out of 32 outs, territory usually reserved for his teammates Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

When it was mentioned to Brenly that it's a good bet Kim has never even heard the tragic tale of Donnie Moore, Brenly's voice acquired an edge that could slice rock. "No, he doesn't," he said. "And you know what? He doesn't need to know, either."

Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at

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