LA’s Korean fans miss Pirates’ Kang Jung-ho after season-ending injury

September 18, 2015
James Yang, left, and his friend who visited from South Korea surnamed Choi (Brian Han/Korea Times)

“The whole reason I bought the tickets was to see Kang,” said 21-year-old James Yang, right. His friend, Choi hoped to see Kang during his visit to LA, but the timing could not have been worse. (Brian Han/Korea Times)

By Brian Han

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Korean fans came out in droves Friday to Dodger Stadium to watch the home team play the Pittsburgh Pirates despite no South Korean presence on the field.

Pirates rookie shortstop Kang Jung-ho was supposed to be a big draw for this particular demographic, but a season-ending injury just the day before at PNC Park forced him to undergo immediate surgery to mend torn knee ligaments and a broken leg.

The Dodgers’ South Korean starting pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin also ended his 2015 season back in May with a torn labrum that needed surgical repair.

“The whole reason I bought the tickets was to see Kang,” said 21-year-old James Yang. “It would be a waste not to come just because of that, so I came anyway.”

Yang came with a friend who had just visited from South Korea to attend the game.

“I used to watch Kang when he played on the Nexen Heroes,” Choi said who chose to only give his last name. “Yes, I am disappointed, but I love baseball and the Dodgers are my favorite team. I will still have fun tonight.”

Some fans were still outraged by the play that sent the shortstop straight to the disabled list and weren’t afraid to say it.

“They should kick the guy out of the league at least for the rest of the season,” said Korean Pirates fan Soo Park. “If we have to lose a player because he was reckless, they should lose a player.”

Despite the indignation felt by many fans stemming from the incident, Kang kept his cool by lifting the blame from Chicago Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan who initiated the collision during an unsuccessful attempt to break up a double play.

He released a statement saying, “I’m confident he meant me no harm.”

Pirates fan and former minor league pitcher John Owens (Brian Han/Korea Times)

Pirates fan and former minor league pitcher John Owens (Brian Han/Korea Times)

Another Pirates fan who had spent time as a pitcher in the Kansas City Royals minor league system echoed that sentiment after being shown the replay.

“Oh yeah, that looks bad, but I don’t think Coghlan tried to intentionally bust his knee up,” 32-year-old John Owens. “At least he touched the bag. That counts as a clean slide in my opinion.”

When asked about a possible rule change to help protect middle infielders, Owens felt that some kind of revision should be in order although that wouldn’t come without any sacrifices.

“I feel like a lot of sports are taking player health into consideration way more these days whether that’s football players and concussions or baseball catchers dealing with the same thing,” he said. “That’s a good thing, but that also means giving up the way baseball is played, the tradition. I guess at a certain point you have to ask yourself what’s the cost.”

Kang will be out for six to eight months according to ESPN, which means that he could miss spring training and the 2016 season opener.

He led the team with a .310 batting average, .548 slugging percentage and 11 home runs since the All-Star break.

Kang came into Thursday’s game hitting .287/.355/.461 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs in 125 games.


  1. Chapsalduk

    September 19, 2015 at 9:25 PM

    Since ryu vs. choo match up, this one was going to be a big match up ryu vs. kang … But it did not happen.. sorry for kang’ s injury.

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