The Pittsburgh Pirates claimed pitcher Chan-ho Park off waivers from the New York Yankees on Wednesday. Park (박찬호, Park Chan-ho), the first Korean to make the Major Leagues, will join the worst team in baseball and a team that hasn't had a winning season since 1992.
If Park pitches in a game he'll be the first Korean to play for Pittsburgh in the regular season. Prior to the 2008 season pitcher Byung-hyun Kim signed with Pittsburgh but didn't make the team out of training camp.
Two other Asians have played on the Pirates but haven't done too well. Infielder Aki Iwamura was acquired before the 2010 season but was, in spite of his past success, one of the worst players on one of the worst line-ups in Pittsburgh history, hitting .182 in 54 games before being demoted. The first Japanese, and Asian, player was pitcher Masumi Kuwata, well-known in Japan but signed by the Pirates well after his prime, who appeared in 19 games in 2007.
Hines Ward is the strongest connection between Pittsburgh and South Korea, where he's seen as a national hero and a role model for biracial Korean children. But the other signings have raised some awareness overseas of the city, a year after the troublesome G-20 summit and a generation after the steel left. After all, my Japanese fiancee and several acquaintances, for better or worse, know of Pittsburgh because of Kuwata's brief stay.