CINCINNATI — As some of the Pirates' veterans trickled into the visitors clubhouse and a few starting pitchers relaxed on a nearby couch, Jung Ho Kang stood by a locker stall waiting to speak with the media Friday afternoon. Though the third baseman was not in the starting lineup, he was readying to potentially play his first big league game in almost two years.
Kang didn't sleep much the night before, and he didn't have much time to meet all of his new teammates, most of whom he'd never spoken to before. At 31 years old, he was already among the oldest players available on Clint Hurdle's lineup card for the series opener against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Yet, he appeared as gregarious as a rookie recalled for the first time.
Kang was unable to enter the United States last year after being convicted of a third DUI in his native South Korea, preventing him from playing for the Pirates. This could potentially be his first game since Oct. 2, 2016, a reality that was not lost on him after joining the team Friday for the final three games of the season.
"Last night I had trouble sleeping with a lot of mixed emotions and excitement," Kang said through interpreter Mark Kim. "Just wanted to get back here and see my teammates and staff, the coaching staff. Everyone’s been really generous in welcoming me back today, so it’s been great so far."