BRADENTON, Florida (KDKA) — Jung Ho Kang has become a big attraction in Bradenton, Florida.
The 27-year-old Korean, who doesn’t speak any English, seems to be fitting in well early on.
“He’s heard lots of good things about the Pirates, so he’s very excited,” Kang said through his interpreter.
More than 20 Korean media members have flown into Florida just to follow Kang’s transition from the KBO to the majors.
Not only is Kang making adjustments on the field, but there is no doubt, it’s a bigger adjustment off the field. Right now, Kang needs an interpreter 24/7 to communicate.
In between practices, meetings and extra batting practice sessions, Kang is working on his English, taking an online course right in Pirate City with his interpreter every night.
He’ll know a few words when he heads to Pittsburgh, but he’s not worried about the English language when he’s on the baseball field. That’s universal.
The Pirates really did their homework on Kang. Pittsburgh Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle told KDKA’s Rich Walsh that they spent two years scouting him in Korea.
“What we do is we trust the people who went over there and watched him to two years, and that’s one of the things that we do well within our organization is have trust,” said Hurdle. “There’s people – that’s their job to go over, and this was a tough call. This was a tough assignment, and they went over there for two years, put eyes on him, asked questions, talked to people. We’ve chatted up opposing American pitchers that have pitched against him in the last two years – how they attacked him, what they did, was he able to make adjustments, where’d you see soft spots, what did he absolutely wear out, what did you see from him on defense, what’s his commitment to the game and all those things. So we’ve done all the homework you can do.”
The Pirates have invested a lot into Kang who will start the season on the right side of the infield, backing up Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison.