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Eric Thames appeared on the Korean 'Masked Singer,' because of course he did

Eric Thames appeared on the Korean 'Masked Singer,' because of course he did

Eric Thames is a fun-loving, weight-lifting, beard-growing, truck-driving, yoga-practicing, Avengers-obsessed potpourri of a man. Oh yeah, and he plays first base for the Washington Nationals.

There are few things that Thames can’t do. So it should come as no surprise that the left-handed slugger once emerged as a surprise contestant on the South Korean equivalent of “The Masked Singer” after spending three years in the Korea Baseball Organization.

Appearing on “The King of Mask Singer” last offseason, Thames busted out his rendition of Stevie Wonder's “Isn't She Lovely” before singing — in only slightly less-than-perfect Korean — the song “Americano” originally released by Korean duo 10cm.

He sat down with NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas for the Nationals Talk podcast and reflected on his moment in the spotlight.

“Preparing for that was definitely uncomfortable, to say the least,” Thames said. “I’m not afraid of being uncomfortable…but I had to go to a singing coach. He taught me different techniques about your posture, your breathing — like diaphragm breathing, I didn’t know what any of that was. But it’s definitely a unique experience.

“I was battling a K-pop guy who could belt notes like no other so I’m there just like I’m singing karaoke, [voice] cracking, but it was fun.”

The performance only added to Thames’ well-established Korean fame. He won MVP as a member of the KBO’s NC Dinos in 2015 after hitting 40 home runs, stealing 40 bases and winning the league batting title with a .381 average. His success overseas helped him land a three-year, $16 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers that stretched until this winter.

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW ON THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

Thames now joins a Nationals roster that rode an exuberant clubhouse culture all the way to a World Series title. With Gerardo Parra, the face of that clubhouse personality, having departed for Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league, there’s an opening for a player such as Thames to inject the energy into the clubhouse that it rallied around last season.

While Thames doesn’t expect to be singing his way into endearing himself to his teammates, he looks back on his performance as a fun experience.

“We recorded it and I had to wait probably like 25 days, so I couldn’t say anything. I had to keep it a secret,” Thames said. “I remember I flew with my buddy to London and we’re at the airport, getting on the shuttle, going to the hotel and he’s like, ‘Hey dude, the thing’s going to air in like 20 minutes,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, here we go.’ Sure enough it aired and my phone blew up. All my friends like, ‘Ahh, I didn’t know.’ It was cool.”

Even though Thames is someone who thrives in situations that make him uncomfortable, pulling off that mask and seeing the cheering audience around him was a moment he won’t soon forget.

“It was easier with the mask on,” Thames said. “It’s like singing in the dark. Nobody can see you, but when the mask is off it’s like all right, just let it all hang out there.”

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Nationals’ statement: ‘We encourage our fellow citizens to lead by example’

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Nationals’ statement: ‘We encourage our fellow citizens to lead by example’

The Washington Nationals issued a statement on social media at 9:55 p.m. Tuesday while their hometown streets of Washington were marched through by protesters and closed off by various law enforcement agencies.

“The Lerner Family and the entire Washington Nationals Organization join the Washington Nationals Founding Partners Group in the following statement:

“On behalf of the Washington Nationals Founding Partners Group, the minority owners of color of the team, we hope for unity and solidarity of our fans, supporters and the DC Metropolitan community at this time. For generations the game of baseball has brought together men, women and children of all backgrounds, ethnicities and races, including men and women in uniform of every kind. Last year we stood side by side to witness and celebrate a success of ethnic harmony and resolve like no other. The 2019 World Series victory was a living example of cultural diversity blending to support a united goal not just as a team, but as a family.

As a pillar of the DC community, we see it as essential to build opportunities and offer mentorship programs that serve the next generation, as we have done since 2007 through the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy and Nationals Philanthropies. It is our goal to teach our children the virtues of respect and treating others with decency, humility and kindness. These important values find their way into every home, including ours. And let us emphasize above all that we do not support brutality or intolerance of any kind.

“On behalf of the Founding Partners Group and our families, we wish for everyone’s safety in the DC Metropolitan community, our nation and beyond. We encourage our fellow citizens to lead by example and commit to playing a meaningful role in shaping a vision and future for our youth, regardless of their race, that unifies and celebrates all of us.”

The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers has spurred protests in cities across the country -- including the nation’s capital -- for a fifth consecutive night. Individual athletes have used their voices amid the countrywide turmoil and many organizations in turn have decided to issue statements on the current climate in the United States. The Nationals joined them late Tuesday.

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Sean Doolittle among Nationals to express support for protesters

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Sean Doolittle among Nationals to express support for protesters

As demonstrators stood in the streets of D.C. on Monday to protest racial injustice by law enforcement across the country—most recently resulting in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis—police used tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse the crowd in order for President Donald Trump to visit St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had been damaged amid protests Sunday.

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle and his wife Eireann Dolan voiced on Twitter their displeasure with the decision to use violence in order to break up the crowds.

Athletes and sports teams across the U.S. have chimed in to express their support for equal rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. Although the Nationals had yet to release an official statement at the time this story was published, they did join the #BlackOutTuesday movement by making their profile pictures on both Twitter and Instagram black and posting blank photos.

Outfielder Juan Soto, second baseman Starlin Castro, starting pitcher Joe Ross and third baseman Carter Kieboom joined the #BlackOutTuesday movement on their Instagram accounts as well. First baseman Howie Kendrick reposted Tiger Woods’ statement on his Instagram story.

Ross also retweeted a tweet from The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill that ridiculed the NFL for making a statement in support of the protestors after the Colin Kaepernick kneeling saga resulted in the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback’s continued unemployment.

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