When veteran catcher Park Dong-won signed with the LG Twins as a free agent last November, he kept thinking about one particular thing.
"I didn't want to hear Twins fans say, 'We shouldn't have signed this guy,'" Park said Tuesday, after helping the Twins rally for a 5-4 victory over the Kiwoom Heroes with a game-tying, two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul.
With the kind of season Park has put together so far, he won't have to worry about angering fans of his new team. Pound for pound, he has been the best free agent signing in 2023.
Park is leading the Korea Baseball Organization with eight home runs through 29 games. That towering, no-doubter of a blast Tuesday extended Park's lead to two over Yang Suk-hwan of the Doosan Bears. Park has now homered in three straight games for only the second time in his 14-year career.
Park is slugging at a .543 clip, and his on-base percentage sits at .386 -- both career highs. He has drawn 19 walks but has struck out just 18 times in 114 trips to the plate.
The Twins signed Park to a four-year, 6.5 billion-won ($4.9 million) contract to replace Yoo Kang-nam, who departed for the Lotte Giants in free agency. Park had a solid offensive season with the Kia Tigers in 2022, with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs, and threw out more than 40 percent of would-be base stealers.
And yet, even the most optimistic of Twins fans, not to mention hopeful Twins front office and coaching staff, couldn't have predicted this type of power surge from Park in his age-33 season.
"Until the very last season of my contract, I want fans to say they are glad to have me on this team," said Park, who is on pace to shatter his previous career high of 22 home runs from two years ago.
Pointing to the stands from the first base dugout, Park thanked the famously passionate Twins fans for their support.
"I don't usually look at the crowd during games, but after every game, I am always surprised to see just how many fans we draw at home," Park said. "We as players always feed off their energy and support. I am grateful for what our fans mean to us." (Yonhap)