Jung ho Kang has gotten quite the welcome to Pittsburgh.
The former KBO superstar was signed by Neal Huntington to be a middle infielder of the future for the Pirates after Kang slugged 40 home runs last year in the Korean League. Kang was clearly a high reward, low risk signing in the offseason, someone who could develop into a very good major league shortstop.
You would think that he would be well received in a town that is just starting to wake up to the fact that the Pirates are a championship caliber ball club. You would hope that the fan base and the illustrious media would understand that Kang is leaving everything and everyone he knows to move across the world and play for our team.
He knows no one in this country, he doesn’t speak the language, he doesn’t understand the language, he can’t read the language. He has practically no way to communicate outside of an omnipresent interpreter. How can anyone expect him to bond with any teammates? He is completely and utterly isolated. Put yourself in that scenario for a minute.
You can’t, because it’s impossible to imagine.
So how was he received on the airwaves?
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Instead of our illustrious representatives in the local media understanding that he could use a little support and encouragement, he received the exact opposite. He has been mercilessly thrown under the bus by since he stepped on American soil.
He has been consistently mocked by Jim Colony who insisted that not only should Kang not get a roster spot, but that he should be relegated to Double A. He has bashed everything about Jung Ho Kang before he’s even gotten a fighting chance to prove himself. The media as a whole have blamed him for cheating supposedly more deserving players out of an opportunity to make the big leagues because he was gifted the spot on the roster and they’ve chastised Neal Huntington for making the deal and then for keeping him in the major leagues.
One thing that I would like you take solace in Jung-ho, is that the people that are giving you zero support do not represent the fan base in this town. In fact, those same analysts have been critically wrong about nearly every facet of the Pittsburgh Pirates over the course of the last three years.
So there’s no reason to think that they would start being correct now.
At this point, if I could address Kang himself, I would tell him the following:
Anyone with common sense would understand that it is going to take you at least a year to get acclimated. I know that for you, getting used to major league pitching is going to be the easy part. Being away from family and friends in a foreign country where you get ridiculed on a regular basis for having done nothing more than sign a contract and pursue a dream is by far going to be most difficult adjustment.
I have full confidence in the fact that you will be an over-achieving middle infielder in the major leagues. I can understand that your transition is not going to be easy and that your performance will suffer until you get adjusted. I can sympathize with the pressure that you feel. I saw the expression on your face when you hit a base clearing two out double at a critical point in the game against the Cubs four days ago. There was no sign of happiness. No joy. In fact, just look at the above picture. It speaks volumes.
I know you will stumble more often than not this year. Who wouldn’t. Just understand that the real fans in Pittsburgh have your back. You’re part of the family now and have no doubt that we will be rooting for you every step of the way.
Welcome to Pittsburgh, Jung Ho. Despite what you think, we are all happy you’re here.