By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- The ink on his four-year contract with the San Diego Padres is barely dry, but the team's new South Korean player Kim Ha-seong has already set his sights on major prizes.
"2021 is going to be a tremendous year for the Padres. My goal is to play the best I can to help the team win the World Series," Kim said in a Zoom press conference with the U.S. and Korean media Wednesday. It was Kim's first media session since signing that four-year, US$28 million contract on New Year's Day.
"I am glad to have joined a team that's going to contend for the championship," added Kim, who's undergoing a 14-day quarantine in South Korea after returning from the United States over the weekend. "And personally, I'd like to play well enough to win the Rookie of the Year award."
The 25-year-old spent the first seven years of his professional career with the Kiwoom Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO). In 2020, Kim batted .306/.397/.523 with a career-high 30 home runs, 109 RBIs and 111 runs scored. Kim also stole 23 bases for his second career 20-20 season.
Once he got posted for Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs, Kim was quickly linked to multiple clubs. Kim said the Padres were the most aggressive and showed him a great deal of sincerity in wanting to have him.
Kim has been mostly a shortstop in the KBO and played some third base last year. The Padres don't have immediate needs on the left side of the infield, with MVP candidate Manny Machado at third and Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop.
Kim is expected to have a timeshare at second base with the incumbent Jake Cronenworth, and Kim insisted it doesn't matter where he plays.
"I've been playing infield since I was a kid, and I am confident I can play at any infield position," Kim said. "On the Padres, I think second base is where I should try to do my best."
On speculation that he or Cronenworth could be asked to play some outfield, Kim said: "Although I've never played in the outfield, I should go play there if that's what the team wants. But I think I can help the club the best if I stay in the infield."
At the onset of the session, Kim reeled off the names of the current Padres infielders, singling out Machado, Tatis, Cronenworth and first baseman Eric Hosmer as "great players."
"I think just training and playing next to those players will help me grow," Kim said. "I know we have a young and exciting team, and those guys play with a lot of energy. I also like to get my uniform dirty on the field, and I think we can all create great synergy."
Kim said playing in the majors has been a lifelong dream and he never lost sight of that goal during his seven years in the KBO.
His focus is so singular that when asked what he looked forward to while living in America, Kim responded, "I haven't thought about anything else other than playing baseball there."
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