South Korea will likely host Major League Baseball regular season games for the first time at the start of the 2024 season, a US report claimed on Sunday, with a familiar face returning to his old stomping ground for the historic occasion.
Citing sources, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the two-game series between the San Diego Padres, featuring South Korean infielder Kim Ha-seong, and the Los Angeles Dodgers to be played in Seoul in late March 2024 is in the works.
If finalized, these will be the first MLB games in South Korea, and also the first games of the 2024 MLB season.
The newspaper added that Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, home of the Korea Baseball Organization club Kiwoom Heroes, is expected to host the National League West showdown. Kim was an All-Star shortstop for the Heroes during his seven-year KBO career before taking his talent to San Diego ahead of the 2021 season. The Heroes moved into the dome at the start of the 2016 season.
"It's going to be an honor for our team to go to my country and play a game there," Kim told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "It's going to be so fun, and I'm looking forward to it."
As for the Padres' growing presence in South Korea, Kim said. "I can see every year there's more Padres fans, and I hear more about Padres and people now know our players, too. People will love it, love to see them. And also the Dodgers, there's obviously great players too. So it's going to be a blast and fans will love it."
The Dodgers also have history with Korean players and boast a strong fan base in this country. The first Korean-born player in MLB history, right-handed pitcher Park Chan-ho, played for the Dodgers from 1994 to 2001, and again in 2008. He's currently an adviser in the Padres front office. Infielder Choi Hee-seop and pitcher Seo Jae-weong also donned Dodger blue in the mid-2000s.
Most recently, left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin was a mainstay in the Dodgers starting rotation from 2013 to 2019. In his final season there, Ryu led the majors with a 2.32 ERA and became the first South Korean pitcher to start an MLB All-Star Game.
Kim is the third South Korean-born player to play for the Padres, after pitcher Baek Cha-seung and Park. (Yonhap)