Hyun-soo Kim knows he faces a huge adjustment. After starring in South Korea, the 28-year-old outfielder signed a two-year, $7-million (U.S.) contract with the Baltimore Orioles in December.
Kim is expected to be the Orioles’ starting left fielder and will have to prove himself to his teammates.
During his introductory news conference, Kim was asked if he nervous.
“A lot,” Kim smiled as his spoke through his translator.
He was a star in South Korea; there were a dozen media members from his home country in Sarasota, Fla., on Thursday. It’s pretty clear Kim will be closely chronicled.
In 2015, Jung-ho Kang, another South Korean, signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who train about 20 minutes away from Sarasota in Bradenton, Fla.
Kang hit .287 with 15 home runs and 58 runs batted in during his first year with Pittsburgh. Baltimore would likely be pleased with similar numbers from Kim this season.
“Last year, Kang did a great job in America, so now I have the responsibility to carry that on. Americans [now] know that Koreans can actually play just like Kang does,” Kim said.
Kim arrived in the United States in late January and worked out with some Orioles players for two weeks in Los Angeles under the supervision of team executive Brady Anderson before moving on to Florida.
His biggest limitation is not knowing English.
“Even in baseball. I still have to communicate with the coaches, the players. I have to communicate with them. There are limitations because of the language, so I’ll get adapted to it. As far as techniques, that’s what I’ve been doing for years so I’ll be okay with those,” Kim said.
Manager Buck Showalter would like to see Kim help Baltimore improve its on-base numbers, which ranked in the lower third of the American League last year.
In 2015, Kim had a .438 on-base percentage while hitting .326 with 28 home runs and 121 RBIs for the Korea Baseball Organization’s Doosan Bears. He walked 101 times and struck out just 63 times.
“Initially, we’re going to adjust to him instead of being asked to adjust to us. I don’t want him to try too hard to fit in. I want him to play. I want him to hit, and I want him to contribute,” Showalter said.
Kim will join a lineup that includes recognizable names Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Manny Machado, and they’ll make it easy.
“I think he’s going to find out because of the teammates he’ll have that he’s going to make his path a lot easier. I think he’s going to find that baseball is baseball,” Showalter said.
Even though Kim had attractive offers to remain at home, he wanted to try U.S. baseball.
“As far as coming to America and making decisions, it wasn’t much of a hardship. It was a very comfortable decision to actually make another challenge in a different country,” Kim said.Report Typo/Error