BRADENTON, Fla. — Jung Ho Kang, leaning back in a chair, looked around the empty home clubhouse at LECOM Park as several reporters walked in. The large room, which serves as the Pirates' home during spring training, looked more like a storage locker Wednesday afternoon.
Couches, cabinets and office chairs were moved to the opposite side of the room to make room for AT&T SportsNet's equipment. Unused jerseys hung in empty locker stalls, including the one occupied by David Freese this spring. Kang hadn't prepared for a game in the room in more than two years. It was symbolic of what Kang lost and what he hoped to regain.
The Pirates third baseman was unable to re-enter the United States following his third DUI conviction in South Korea, forcing him to miss the entire 2017 season. He didn't obtain a visa until late April and joined the Bradenton Marauders, the Pirates' High-A affiliate, last Friday.
Kang, wearing No. 22 for Bradenton, has received glowing reviews from minor-league coaches and drove in seven runs in his first four games. However, he stressed the importance of remaining focused off the field and wants to make amends with the fans who cheered for him during his two seasons in Pittsburgh.
"Obviously, I’m not touching a drop of alcohol moving forward," Kang said, stoically, through his interpreter, Mark Kim.