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UA Wildcats baseball

Stereotypes don't trip up Wildcat slugger


The first time Robert Refsnyder flew on an airplane was when he was five months old.

Traveling from South Korea to the United States, the Arizona Wildcat outfielder was being adopted by Clint and Jane Refsnyder of Orange County, Calif.

Refsnyder arrived at John Wayne Airport as a healthy, 8-pound boy and even acquired the nickname, "Moose," for his size. The 20-year-old had lived with a foster family in Seoul prior to his adoption.

Refsnyder's sister Elizabeth, 22, was also adopted from South Korea at about the same age as her brother.

"My sister and I had pretty different adoption experiences," Refsnyder said. "I was adopted into a very small, quiet airport, while she was adopted through LAX (Los Angeles Airport). So although both were wonderful, the actual experience was much different."

"Elizabeth was also pretty sick when she arrived. She was in and out of the hospital a lot, because she was so small."

At the airport, Refsnyder's sister had gotten misplaced initially. While families were waiting at the terminal for their adopted babies, Refsnyder's mother was accidentally handed the wrong child, and Elizabeth was given to another family. The mix up was quickly amended.

"My mom was really upset at first (by the mix up)," Refsnyder said. "It was one of those things that is horrible in the moment but then is sort of funny in the end."

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Refsnyder does not know why his birth parents put him up for adoption. Neither does he know why his parents, who are both Caucasians with red hair, chose to adopt him and his sister.

What the sophomore right-hander does know is how much he loves his life in America.

"I couldn't ask for a greater experience," Refsnyder said. "I grew up in a great family with great parents and a great sister. It's been amazing."

"I have such a passionate love for my parents. They've given me every opportunity in the world, and I feel so blessed."

The Laguna Beach, Calif., resident said that his parents make regular donations to adoption agencies and his mother, in particular, is very open about adoption.

"People will come up to her in the store while she's wearing one of my high school football shirts, and they'll ask about me," Refsnyder said. "So she tells them that I'm her son and that I was adopted. People are curious about adoption, and she's always happy to talk about it."

Refsnyder said he feels very positively toward adoption and would like to do it himself someday.

"I really want to have kids someday and would definitely consider adopting them," he said. "I think it's a great option."

Refsnyder siblings want to return to Asia

When Refsnyder was a sophomore in high school, he and his sister made a pact to go back to South Korea together someday.

"We both decided that when the time was right, we were going to go over to Korea and learn about our culture and history," Refsnyder said. "It's something I'd really like to do."

"I think I've always felt stronger about going back than Elizabeth," Refsnyder said. "My sister's always been more content with being in the United States. I mean, I love it here and am content as well, but my desire to return to Korea was always stronger than hers."

On a trip back, the Wildcat said that he would bring a translator and begin by learning the small things, such as everyday life, the food and the culture. Refsnyder would also like to learn some of the Korean language and potentially meet his birth parents.

Wildcat takes racial stereotypes in stride

Refsnyder said that because he comes from an interracial family he often gets funny looks from people when they are in public together. But the Wildcat takes in stride the challenges he has faced in the United States as an Asian adoptee.

"My dad and I joke around about it a lot," Refsnyder said. "When we're having lunch together, we look more like business partners or something rather than a father and son."

The sophomore right-hander said he has had racial slurs directed at him when he is on the baseball field, particularly when he competed on the USA Youth National Team in 2007.

"When we were playing in Venezuela, the people there had a really hard time accepting the fact that I was an Asian playing on the United States baseball team," he said. "They just couldn't come to grips with it."

Refsnyder said he laughed off the experience but also found it sad.

In terms of playing for Arizona, the regional planning major said he has received racial comments from fans when he is on the road. But Refsnyder feels that the criticism is a result of competing in the Pac-10 rather than racism.

"At this level of baseball, people are always going to say things to try to throw you off your game and get into your head," he said. "But it doesn't work on me, because I just laugh it off and keep my concentration."

Refsnyder is currently batting .346 with 27 RBIs on the season. He has 7 RBIs in his last four games.

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Kim Hartman/TucsonSentinel.com

Robert Refsnyder was adopted from South Korea to the United States when he was five months old. His 22-year-old sister Elizabeth, also a Korean adoptee, played softball for Kenyon College.