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Ex-big leaguer homers in return to S. Korean baseball

All Headlines 17:32 March 13, 2018

SEOUL, March 13 (Yonhap) -- Former major leaguer Park Byung-ho blasted a home run in his first game back with his South Korean club on Tuesday.

Starting at first base and batting cleanup, Park hit a solo shot for the Nexen Heroes in their 5-4 win over the Hanwha Eagles in a Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) preseason game at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon, some 160 kilometers south of Seoul.

With the Heroes leading 2-0 in the top of the third inning, Park took Kim Min-woo over left-center field to give his team a 3-0 cushion.

It was Park's only hit of the game. He drew a walk in the second inning and flied out to left in the fifth. Jang Young-suk replaced Park at first base to start the sixth.

Park Byung-ho of the Nexen Heroes watches his solo home run against the Hanwha Eagles during their Korea Baseball Organization preseason game at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon on March 13, 2018. (Yonhap)

Park spent the past two years with the Minnesota Twins. He played in 62 major league games in 2016, hitting .191 with 12 home runs and 24 RBIs. He was demoted to Triple-A Rochester in midseason and never again returned to the majors. Park was removed from the Twins' 40-man roster early in 2017 and spent the entire season in Triple-A, batting .253 with 14 home runs and 60 RBIs in 111 games.

Though he had two years remaining on his four-year, US$12 million contract, Park asked to be released from the deal and signed with the Heroes for one year and 1.5 billion won ($1.4 million) over the winter.

Park played for the Heroes from 2011 to 2015 and was one of the KBO's most feared sluggers in that span. He was voted the regular season MVP in 2012 and 2013 and exploded for 52 and 53 home runs in 2014 and 2015 to become the first KBO player with back-to-back 50-homer seasons.

He is also the only player in league history to lead the league in both home runs and RBIs in four consecutive seasons, having done so from 2012 to 2015.

Last year, the Heroes missed the postseason for the first time since 2012. They led the league in home runs in 2013, 2014 and 2015, but after losing Park and moving into a more cavernous home park at Gocheok Sky Dome for the 2016 season, they have been in the bottom half of the league in the long ball category over the past two seasons.

Park's return and his home run in the first preseason game were certainly a welcoming sight for the Heroes, who also got solo home runs from Michael Choice and Lim Byeong-wuk.

Park Byung-ho of the Nexen Heroes (R) celebrates his solo home run against the Hanwha Eagles with his first base coach Song Ji-man during a Korea Baseball Organization preseason game at Hanwha Life Eagles Park in Daejeon on March 13, 2018. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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