Dream comes true for star outfielder who joins hometown club KBO

By on December 23, 2021 0
South Korean slugger Na Sung-bum grew up in the southern city of Gwangju, rooted for the Kia Tigers. He attended their stadium with his parents, and as a teenager his middle school and high school teams even played a few games there.

And in 2022, Na will play for the Tigers. As a free agent, Na on Thursday signed a six-year contract worth 15 billion won ($ 12.6 million) with the Tigers, a deal that equals the record for largest agent contract free from the history of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).

Who says you can’t go home anymore?

“I grew up admiring this ball club and always wanted to play for the Tigers,” Na said moments after announcing his deal with the club. “I wanted to put on this team’s jersey at one point in my career, and it has now become a reality.”

Na was drafted into college by the NC Dinos in 2011. They convinced Na to switch from pitcher to outfielder, and he carved out a successful career in his new role.

He broke out in sophomore with 30 home runs and 101 RBIs in 2014. As of that point, he’s recorded over 20 home runs and 90 RBIs every year, with the exception of one injury in 2019, when he missed 121 games with a knee injury. .

The Tigers are betting on the same from Na, who placed second in the KBO this year with 33 home runs. The Tigers as a whole made 66 home runs, the worst in the league, in 2021. They also finished last in runs scored (568) and hitting percentage on base plus (0.673).

The deal seems like a no-brainer for both sides, with the team going hard after one of the free market’s most feared hitters, and that same player joining his hometown team.

But Na said he had made “an extremely difficult decision” to leave the Dinos, the only professional club he had known for a decade. The Dinos also made him a competitive offer, Na added.

“I got a call from Kia the first day I became eligible to sign with a team (other than the Dinos),” Na said. “I negotiated the deal for myself without an agent, and the Tigers have been very thoughtful and considerate throughout the process.”

Na’s signing with the Tigers had been KBO’s worst-kept secret for weeks. Even the specific term and the monetary number were not that far removed from the prevalent numbers.

Another lingering rumor was that Na had already signed his contract and the Tigers had only delayed the announcement because they wanted to strike a deal with free pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong, a franchise icon who wants to return to KBO after. a cup of coffee with the Texas Rangers.

The last meeting between the Tigers and the pitcher held on Wednesday came to nothing, and Na’s signing was announced less than 24 hours later.

Na denied making a deal long before Thursday, but admitted he made his decision in early December to sign with the Tigers.

Na said he’s more concerned with proving he’s worth all the money he gets.

“I understand that I am expected to come up with huge numbers to live up to this contract,” Na said. “I am proud to be a hard player and will continue to work with Kia.”

Also on Thursday, Na uploaded a photo of a handwritten letter to Dinos fans on her Instagram, thanking them for their support over the years and apologizing for leaving the team and her hometown of Changwon, in. the South-East.

“I played for my first professional team in Changwon, and that’s where I bought my first home and where my two children were born and raised,” Na wrote. “Every success I have had has been a gift from the NC Dinos. My life would have been so different if the team had not given me this opportunity. I will never forget it.” (Yonhap)