The Korea Herald


Seeking KBO return, embattled ex-MLB player Kang Jung-ho to hold presser next Tuesday

By Yonhap

Published : June 16, 2020 - 15:50

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Former major league player Kang Jung-ho (Yonhap) Former major league player Kang Jung-ho (Yonhap)

Former major league player Kang Jung-ho, hoping for a return to the South Korean league despite a checkered past marred by multiple drunk driving arrests, will meet with the media next week, his agency said Tuesday.

Leeco Sports Agency said Kang will hold a press conference at a Seoul hotel next Tuesday for his first public appearance since returning from the United States on June 5.

Per the government mandate on all international arrivals during the coronavirus pandemic, Kang remains in a two-week quarantine.

Kang, whose five-year stay with the Pittsburgh Pirates ended unceremoniously with a release last August, is hoping to be reunited with the Kiwoom Heroes, the last Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) team he played for before leaving for the big leagues in 2015.

Because Kang wasn't a free agent then and went through the posting system to land his first major league deal, the Heroes still own rights to Kang and must first activate him from the "voluntarily retired" list before he can play in the KBO again.

Based on Kang's three drunk driving cases from 2009, 2011 and 2016, the KBO handed down a one-year suspension on the infielder on May 25. The ban will take effect once Kang signs a KBO deal. He will be 34 when the suspension ends.

The KBO came under fire in the court of public opinion for what critics viewed as a lenient penalty and for passing the buck to the Heroes, who now have the ultimate say on whether Kang can continue his career.

The Heroes have said they'll only begin discussing their possible future with Kang after the player speaks to the media.

Kang, who has issued an apology over his past behavior in a statement through his agency, didn't speak to reporters after arriving at Incheon International Airport on June 5. The upcoming press conference will be Kang's first opportunity to address his checkered past in his own voice since the KBO issued the suspension.

Once Kang comes off the voluntarily retired list, the Heroes can either sign him or trade him.

Kang received a suspended jail term in 2017 for driving into a guardrail in Seoul while under the influence, and then fleeing the scene, in December 2016. It later turned out to be Kang's third drunk driving case, and it effectively ended Kang's once-promising big league career.

The former KBO All-Star shortstop missed the entire 2017 season because he was unable to obtain his US work permit. Then in 2018, he appeared in only three games at the end of the season.

Kang's four-year deal with the Pirates expired in 2018, but the team gave him a second chance by handing him a new one-year deal for the 2019 season.

Kang led the majors with seven home runs in spring training in 2019, but in the regular season he stumbled to a .169/.222./.395 line in 65 games with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs. The Pirates released him on Aug. 4.

Kang briefly worked out with the Milwaukee Brewers' Triple-A team, but no new deal came out of it.

Kang had been among the premier sluggers in the KBO. In 2014, his last season before moving to the majors, Kang established a new KBO record for the most home runs in a season by a shortstop with 40.

In 2015, Kang finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting, thanks to a .287/.355/.461 line, 15 home runs and 58 RBIs in 126 games.

Then in 2016, Kang posted a .513 slugging percentage while setting career highs with 21 home runs and 62 RBIs in 103 games.

But following the DUI arrest in December that year, Kang never duplicated that level of production. (Yonhap)