Free agent infielder Jung Ho Kang, who played four of the past five years for the Pittsburgh Pirates, received a one-year suspension from the Korea Baseball Organization on Monday in connection with three past arrests on suspicion of drunk driving.
FILE PHOTO: Jul 4, 2019; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jung Ho Kang (16) slides across home plate to score a run against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The KBO also demanded that Kang, 33, perform 300 hours of community service. Both punishments would begin if and when he signs a contract with a Korean team.
After the ruling was announced, Kang issued a statement that said he is working to be a better person.
“Over time, I came to realize just how important baseball is to me,” Kang said. “I took putting on a uniform and getting on the field for granted, and I was a fool not to see how precious that was. I know I don’t deserve to be saying this, but I would love one final opportunity to play baseball.”
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that Kang could have been banned by the KBO for up three years based on its strict rules against drunk driving. Kang’s DUI cases occurred in August 2009, May 2011 and December 2016, according to the report.
The third case, for which he received a suspended two-year sentence, wound up keeping Kang out of the entire 2017 season and most of the 2018 season with the Pirates. He was initially unable to get a visa to return to the United States due to his criminal record.
Kang broke into the major leagues with the Pirates in 2015, and he finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .287 with a .355 on-base percentage, a .461 slugging percentage, 15 homers and 58 RBIs in 126 games.
The next year, he hit .255/.354/.513 with 21 homers and 62 RBIs in 103 games. He went 2-for-6 in three games late in the 2018 season, then batted .169/.222/.395 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs in 65 games in 2019.
Kang began his pro career in the KBO, playing for the Hyundai Unicorns (2006-07) and the Woori/Nexen Heroes (2008-14).
—Field Level Media