Gregory Polanco was dressed like a pirate.
It was the Friday before spring training began, and the South Korean media had already swarmed Bradenton to cover Jung Ho Kang at the Pittsburgh Pirates' workouts at Pirate City.
At the request of a reporter conducting an interview with Polanco for a Korean television station, the young major leaguer placed a pirate hat atop his head and a faux hook over his left hand.
"It was a media frenzy, for sure, when he first came over here," shortstop Jordy Mercer said.
This is now, for better or worse, part of Pittsburgh's life with Kang, who is trying to fit in while striving to be the first South Korean position player in the majors.
Most of his story, by now, is well known. The shortstop was so impressive in the Korean Baseball Organization, posting an astonishing 1.198 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 40 home runs for the Nexen Heroes in 2014, that even the thrifty Pirates were intrigued. Pittsburgh won the bidding war for Kang, sending $5 million to the Heroes and inking its new 27-year-old infielder to a four-year, $11 million deal.
"We know he's a big deal over there," said Josh Harrison, who was an all-star for the Pirates in 2014 as a utility man.
It was an uncharacteristic risk for a team that usually avoids them, a calculated gamble that the hype-hounded rookie will adapt to MLB both on and off the field rapidly enough to help push Pittsburgh over the top.
"You could see the ability and what not from just him out on the field," utility player Sean Rodriguez said, "but his personality's been fun to get to know."
His new teammates rave about his charisma, which overcomes an occasional language barrier, just as much as they do about his performance on the field. While his spring has been rocky -- he has a .188 batting average and only one home run in the exhibition games -- he and the added media presence haven't been a disruption in the locker room.
He dances in the clubhouse and cracks jokes in the lunch room. His barbs typically come in Korean, but, even with a translator as a buffer, Kang slays his teammates.
"I bet he's even funnier than they are," relief pitcher Jared Hughes said.
With the early nights and earlier mornings of spring training, it can be difficult to spend time with teammates away from baseball. Kang hasn't had much of an opportunity to get out in southwest Florida with his teammates, which has been one hold-up in his total assimilation.
Harrison, however, was impressed with Kang's apparent knowledge of his new club, even during his earliest days in the United States. During his first day in Pirate City, Kang was the one who first approached Harrison, calling him by his nickname J-Hay.
"He's just a real personable guy, outgoing, real fun to be around," said third baseman Brent Morel, whose locker is next to Kang's in the home clubhouse at McKechnie Field. "He knows a lot more English than I thought, which (is a) tribute to him for trying to learn."
Kang refers to Andrew McCutchen as Cutch and is familiar with many of the Pittsburgh ballclub's quirks.
Next up, he wants a nickname of his own.
"That's what he's on us about right now," Harrison said. "We're going to think of one as a team, something that he likes."
During workouts, Kang found his locker wedged between Polanco and Starling Marte. While Kang was trying to pick up English naturually, the Dominican outfielders made it their goal to teach him some Spanish.
And in turn some of his teammates have picked up bits of his Korean. Slowly but surely, the language barrier is fading and, in its place, players are tossing broken Spanglorean around the clubhouse.
"It's part of bonding," Kang said through an interpreter. "Picking up Spanish from players, teaching them Korean, picking up English. It's bonding."
Kang made his debut in a Pirates uniform March 4 against the Blue Jays in Dunedin. In his second at-bat, the shortstop blasted a solo home run over Florida Auto Exchange Stadium's right-center field wall.
As Kang trotted home, he held the tips of his thumbs together to make a "Z" with his hands. Polanco also taught him that move, which is the team's typical home run celebration. For a moment, Kang was exceeding the hype. And the Zoltan symbol wasn't just a sign for the homer. It was one that said he's fitting in just fine.
"He just wants to be a part of the club, which anybody would," Mercer said. "He just wants basically for the team to not miss a beat when he gets here, and he's done a great job of that."