Pittsburgh Pirates

This MLB player's future was in doubt after third DUI. Now he has a work visa to play

Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang speaks to the media for the first time since regaining a work visa in the United States following a third DUI offense left him in South Korea for the past 1 1/2 years.
Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang speaks to the media for the first time since regaining a work visa in the United States following a third DUI offense left him in South Korea for the past 1 1/2 years. jdill@bradenton.com

Jung Ho Kang sat in a chair, wearing a Pirates baseball shirt and a Pittsburgh Pirates hat.

It was moments away before Kang addressed the media for the first time since regaining a work visa to play baseball in the United States.

Not long ago, Kang's baseball future was in doubt.

The reason?

He picked up his third DUI in his native South Korea.

On Wednesday at LECOM Park's Bill McKechnie Clubhouse, where the Pirates hold spring training, in Bradenton, Florida, Kang spoke to the media through translator Mark Kim.

He said he's not touching a drop of alcohol moving forward, and he regrets not making the Pirates or his previous Korean team, Nexen, aware of the two previous DUIs.

"Looking back at it, it was an ill-informed decision and I am very regretful for doing that," Kang said.

On April 26, the Pirates announced Kang's return to the organization after regaining a work visa, though Kang said he's not sure how the visa process works in the United States.

He was denied a visa last year, before regaining it in April.

"The experiences that I've had with Pittsburgh and its fans has been such an overwhelming experience that I saw it as a motivation to fight back," Kang said. "And repay my debts to the faithful in Pittsburgh."

Kang said he never drank during the season. It was only after the season was over. His translator, Kim, is driving him around.

"It would be a lie if I said I wasn't concerned or worried," Kang said about his baseball future being over.

During his time away from Major League Baseball, Kang said he kept up with the Pirates and stayed in contact with former Pirate Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Cervelli.

Kang, who last played for the Pirates in 2016, said he's tried to notch up the intensity each day as he prepares his body for baseball shape.

So far, he's performing well for the Bradenton Marauders, the Pirates' high-A affiliate.

Entering Wednesday's action, Kang was 6 for 13 with two home runs in four games.

His performance in Bradenton is a departure from how he performed in the Dominican Republic Winter League, where he struggled at the plate.

"The biggest challenge for me during the winter leagues was the difference in environment between Dominican baseball and American baseball," Kang said. "That ranges from food, living style, baseball style and so it just took me a little longer than expected for me to make those adjustments."

While in the Dominican, Kang reportedly attended a rum factory. He said he did not drink there, and he can be around alcohol without the desire of wanting to drink.

Kang said he's not sure when he'll rejoin the Pirates in Pittsburgh, but said his priority is the same as before he joined Major League Baseball and that's to help the Pirates win a World Series.

"Even if there are jeers from the crowd, that's something I deserve," Kang said. "I'll take full responsibility and ownership of that reaction."

  Comments