SEOUL, April 7 (Yonhap) — For the first time since he started his professional career in the United States seven years ago, South Korean utility Park Hoy-jun has joined the the major league opening day.
The Pittsburgh Pirates put the versatile player on their 28-man roster to start the 2022 season. Park will celebrate his 26th birthday when the Pirates visit the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis at 3:15 p.m. Thursday local time or at 5:15 a.m. Friday in South Korea.
Park signed with the New York Yankees at Yatap High School in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, in July 2014 and played his first season at Rookie Ball in 2015.
A highly touted shortstop prospect in South Korea, Park continued to progress through the minor leagues and made his major league debut on July 16 of last year with the Yankees.
This ended up being Park’s only pinstripe game, as the Yankees traded him to the Pirates 10 days later. He appeared in 44 games for the Pirates and had a combined .195/.297.336 line with three home runs and 14 RBIs. Park threw his first career home run against the Cardinals on August 10 of last year.
Showing his defensive versatility, Park has played in all outfield positions and has also taken on second base, third base and shortstop duties for the Pirates in 2021.
Park had strong spring training to make the case for a spot on the Opening Day roster, batting .308/.357/.577 with two home runs and two RBIs. He finished the exhibition season on a seven-game hitting streak despite arriving late at camp due to a bout with COVID-19 and a delay in getting his work visa.
Park played second base, third base, shortstop and right field in nine spring training games. He is listed as one of nine infielders on the Pirates roster.
Among the other South Koreans, veteran left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin will enter his 10th year in the majors as the No. 3 starter for the Toronto Blue Jays. San Diego Padres second-year infielder Kim Ha-seong is expected to get a lot of playing time at shortstop early on with starter Fernando Tatis Jr. injured in his wrist. Choi Ji-man will enter his fourth full season with the Tampa Bay Rays as first baseman.