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Park Chan-ho says willing to face new challenges in Japan

All Headlines 18:20 December 21, 2010

SEOUL, Dec. 21 (Yonhap) -- Park Chan-ho, the first South Korean-born Major Leaguer, said Tuesday that the role of starting pitcher was an irresistible temptation leading to his decision to choose Japan as his second baseball home.

Park, who signed a one-year contract with the Osaka-based Orix Buffaloes after playing in Major League Baseball for 17 seasons, said that he will eventually finish his baseball career before home fans in South Korea after accumulating more experience in Japan.

"When I first met with officials from the Orix Buffaloes, I was moved by their proposal for joining their starting rotation," Park said at a press conference in Seoul.

"I have hoped to play as a starter for years. When I was in the bullpen, I deeply missed the starting role," he said.

The 37-year-old became a free agent after completing this season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he did not generate much interest in the market due to his age.

He reached the agreement with an annual salary of US$120 million and incentives of $100 million.

"I know I've played relatively less innings in the past three years as a relief pitcher. It must be hard to adjust to the new role," said Park, who has gone through the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies, among others.

"I'll not say the specific number of wins for the next season, but I started training a bit earlier to take part in the spring camp in the best condition."

Park also said he is looking forward to playing with his South Korean teammate Lee Seung-yeop, who reached his two-year deal with the Buffaloes earlier this month.

Park joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994 to become the first South Korean to play in the U.S. Major League. He has pitched for seven clubs, most recently the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010, going with 124-98 with an earned run average (ERA) of 4.36 in 476 appearances.

Park said he cherishes the record for the most victories in MLB by an Asian pitcher with 124, which encouraged him to work harder to return to the majors in 2008. He said it was hard to make the decision to move to Japan, leaving behind his records achieved throughout his 17 years in the U.S.

"It's like I retired from the U.S. Major League. I've gained a lot and experienced much in the majors," said Park. "In Japan, I will face different challenges there. Different culture, strange baseball style, batters. But it's important for me to play baseball anywhere."

"After I signed the deal, I felt sad. For 17 years, I have been able to overcome all hardships and grow up, thanks to the support of Korean fans in the U.S. I want to thank them and say I'm sorry as well."

He said he hopes to play in the Korean baseball league in the future before retirement.

"I'm now going to Japan to experience more. I'll decide my future again after the 2011 season, but I want to move to South Korea in the end. It's my ultimate goal," said Park.


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