hen the Nexen Heroes signed American outfielder Danny Dorn last November, it was with expectations that he would add some pop to a lineup about to part ways with big bats.
First baseman Park Byung-ho would leave the Korea Baseball Organization club via posting to sign with the Minnesota Twins in December, after hitting 53 homers in 2015. Outfielder Yoo Han-joon, who set a career high with 23 home runs, left Nexen as a free agent to sign with the KT Wiz three days after Dorn's signing.
Their absences will certainly put pressure on Dorn to start producing at the plate immediately -- especially since foreign players are often kept on a short leash among KBO clubs. Where some may see a burden, however, Dorn sees "an opportunity."
"I look at it more as an opportunity. I expect a lot of things from myself," Dorn told Yonhap News Agency before the Heroes' first preseason game at the new Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul against the SK Wyverns.
"Outside pressure doesn't really matter because my expectation for myself is higher than anyone's," Dorn added. "I know if I come in, stay focused and work hard, I will show what kind of player I am and help us win games."
The Heroes led the KBO last year with 203 home runs, 26 more than the next team on the list, but having lost Park and Yoo and moved into Gocheok Sky Dome -- more cavernous than their previous home, Mokdong Stadium -- the Heroes won't likely match that total.
The Heroes may not necessarily be counting on Dorn's brute power, but they still like his ability to make contact and hit line drives. When he signed last November, the club noted that Dorn had seen his on-base-plus-slugging percentage steadily rise over the past three years, and that he'd also cut down on his strikeouts and improved his walk rates.
Dorn batted .374/.430/.595 with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs in 81 minor league games last year, split between the Triple-A affiliates of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Toronto Blue Jays.
Defensively, Dorn can handle the first base and corner outfield positions. Dorn said he expects to mostly play in left field but added, "Whatever my boss (manager Yeom Kyung-yup) tells me to do, I will go and play."
The dome opened last November and hosted a pair of exhibition games between South Korea and Cuba, and then some high school games. Players have talked about trouble tracking fly balls as they can get lost against the ceiling, but Dorn said all it takes is hard work.
"(All outfielders) are working together, and we've got to do the best to make plays behind our pitcher," he said. "The railings (in the ceiling) kind of give you a bit of depth and you can get a read off them. You've got to keep your eye on the ball and track it the best you can."
Dorn made his major league debut last year with the Diamondbacks, whose home park, Chase Field, has a retractable roof. He's experiencing a fully domed stadium for the first time, and said he "lucked out" when he signed with the Heroes because he didn't know at first he'd be playing at a brand new ballpark.
"It's beautiful, and I feel thankful and blessed to get to use these facilities and play baseball," he said. "They did a great job. It's a major league clubhouse. The weight room is unbelievable. I just want to go in there and work out all day."
Dorn said he's been getting some help from his teammate Ryan Feierabend in his adjustments on and off the field, since Feierabend has one KBO season under his belt.
Dorn also has a few friends and former teammates across the league. He and Kia Tigers' infielder Brett Pill played four years college ball together at California State University Fullerton. Dorn called KT infielder Andy Marte "a great teammate" of his from the past, and he also has ties with Doosan Bears' outfielder Nick Evans and NC Dinos' infielder Eric Thames, the reigning league MVP.
"It's great to see familiar faces," Dorn said. "I'll get to know some of the other players in this league and that's what's fun and exciting about being able to come over here." (Yonhap)