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New Padre Kim Ha-seong to train with ex-KBO club

Sports 13:11 January 19, 2021

SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- With a big league deal in tow, South Korean baseball star Kim Ha-seong will train with his former Seoul-based club early next month to prepare for the new season.

Kim, who signed a four-year contract with the San Diego Padres on New Year's Eve, completed his 14-day quarantine Saturday after arriving back in South Korea earlier this month. He then visited with his former Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club, Kiwoom Heroes, on Monday.

The Heroes' general manager (GM), Kim Chi-hyun, said Tuesday that he was proud of his former All-Star shortstop.

"You would expect he'd be walking on a cloud, but he was still very much grounded," the official said of his meeting with the player. "He said the real work begins now. I could feel that he's going into the new season with a sense of responsibility."

In this file photo from Oct. 7, 2020, Kim Ha-seong of the Kiwoom Heroes celebrates his solo home run against the NC Dinos during the bottom of the fifth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Kim Ha-seong is expected to leave for the United States around Feb. 8, and he asked the Heroes if he could train with them for a few days during their spring training, which starts on Feb. 1.

They will be training at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Kim's former stomping ground. And the GM said the Heroes will offer their former slugger as much support as they could.

The Heroes previously sent two players to the majors -- shortstop Kang Jung-ho and first baseman Park Byung-ho -- and on both occasions, those players trained with the KBO club before joining their big league teams. KBO spring training typically begins about two weeks before camps open in the majors.

Kim, a natural shortstop who spent some time at third base last year, will be joining a crowded Padres infield. They're already set at shortstop and third base, with future MVP material Fernando Tatis Jr. and perennial All-Star Manny Machado. Kim will likely start the season at second base, which was manned by the Rookie of the Year candidate Jake Cronenworth last year.

There doesn't seem to be an immediate fit for Kim, who received offers from a handful of other clubs that could have given him a clearer path to playing time.

This image captured from the San Diego Padres' Twitter page on Jan. 10, 2021, shows the club's new South Korean player, Kim Ha-seong (C), flanked by two other new acquisitions, Blake Snell (L) and Yu Darvish. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

But to hear the GM tell it, the player was determined to challenge himself.

"I asked him why he chose San Diego, and he said he prefers to have some competition rather than feel comfortable," the GM said. "He said that's how he could improve himself. I loved hearing that."

Kim Chi-hyun said Ha-seong has always been a model citizen and doesn't need much advice.

"I just told him he should continue to be careful now that he'll be under an even brighter spotlight," the team official said.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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