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S. Korean baseball's career hits leader embracing move down lineup

Sports 10:44 February 27, 2019

ISHIKAWA, Japan, Feb. 27 (Yonhap) -- With his time in professional baseball ticking away, LG Twins' designated hitter Park Yong-taik is trying to enjoy every moment on the field, even during spring training that can seem tedious to veterans like him.

Park signed a new two-year deal with the Twins last month, and the 39-year-old plans to retire when that contract expires in 2020. This will be his 18th season with the Seoul-based Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club.

Park, who became the KBO's all-time hits leader last season, said this year's camp has been more fun than any other year.

Park Yong-taik of the LG Twins speaks to reporters after practice in Ishikawa, Japan, on Feb. 26, 2019. (Yonhap)

"When spring training drags on, you're bound to lose your mental edge, but I haven't experienced any of that this year," Park said after the team's practice here in Ishikawa, Okinawa Prefecture, on Tuesday. "I've never had so much fun in spring."

Park, who has 2,384 career hits, said he's been focusing on hitting to the opposite field at this year's camp. Park batted .303 last year for his 10th consecutive season with at least a .300 batting average, but he acknowledged he often swung for the fences and tried to go for extra-base hits, which cost him some consistency.

"Last year, I practiced what I wanted to do. But this year, I am working on things I am supposed to do," Park added. "I want to raise my on-base percentage with hits. I think that's what I can do best."

Park, who mostly batted in the third spot in the lineup last year, is expected to move down to the No. 6 hole this year. Though Park still launched 15 homers in 2018 -- his highest total in three years -- the Twins will put younger hitters in the heart of the order and see how they respond. And Park doesn't see his move as a demotion.

"I am really confident about hitting in the sixth spot," he said. "If I can hit well there, I think our lineup will be as dangerous as any in the league."

One key piece for the Twins this year will be their new foreign bat, Tommy Joseph.

The Twins had little luck with their import bat last year, getting only 50 games out of Adonis Garcia, who batted .339 with eight homers and 34 RBIs.

In this file photo from June 23, 2018, Park Yong-taik of the LG Twins watches his double against the Lotte Giants in the bottom of the fourth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) regular season game at Jamsil Stadium on June 23, 2018. It was Park's 2,319th career hit, crowning him as the new all-time hit king in the KBO. (Yonhap)

Joseph is just two years removed from his second-straight 20-homer season with the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2017, Joseph hit 22 home runs and drove in 69 runs in 142 games.

Park said he liked what he's seen from Joseph so far.

"He's been trying to learn and attempt new things, and he's been putting in a lot of work," Park said. "Making adjustments is crucial in the game of baseball. In a new league, you have to try different things and keep your ears open for advice. From that aspect, I think Joseph has a major upside."


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