Park, 1st Korean to play in MLB, throws ceremonial 1st pitch in Dodgers-Padres season opener


SEOUL, South Korea — Using the glove he used in his first major league appearance, former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres pitcher Chan Ho Park threw the ceremonial first pitch ahead of the two teams’ season opening game in South Korea.

Park, who began his Major League Baseball career in 1994 with Los Angeles as the first South Korean-born player in the big leagues, waved to cheering crowds packing Seoul’s Gocheok Sky Dome. Wearing a jersey for the Padres, where he works as an adviser, Park went into his wind-up and threw the ball to San Diego’s current South Korean shortstop Ha-Seong Kim.

Before the game, Park expressed pride about how his own achievements and those of his former Japanese teammate, Hideo Nomo, who joined the Dodgers in 1995, inspired younger generations of Asian players to try and reach the majors.

“When I look at all these Asian players today, I feel that the tree planted by Hideo Nomo has grown strong and the tree planted by Chan Ho Park has grown strong, and that the fruits of those trees are now leading the majors and inspiring new hope,” Park said.

Park holds the MLB record for most wins by an east Asian pitcher, going 124-98 with a 4.36 ERA. He was an All-Star in 2001, when he went 15-11 with a 3.50 ERA for the Dodgers. His 17-year MLB career also included stops with the Texas Rangers, Padres, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Park, who retired in 2012, remains one of the most popular sports personalities in South Korea, where many people remember how his heroics cheered up a nation weathering a crippling financial crisis in the late-1990s.

A total of 25 South Koreans have played in the majors since Park’s debut, including Kim , who last year won a Gold Glove as a utility player. The Dodgers have arguably the two biggest stars in Japanese baseball — two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani and starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who takes the mound in Thursday’s Game 2.

The Padres’ Japanese ace Yu Darvish is a candidate to break Park’s Asian win record. The 37-year-old Darvish had 103 career wins ahead of his opening day start against the Dodgers.

“My record of 124 wins needs to get broken some time,” Park said. “And I really hope Darvish is the one who does it.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb



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