On May 5, one year after he went into surgery for a gruesome knee injury that nearly put an end to his Major League Baseball dreams, KBO star Sung-Bum Na stepped to the plate and gathered his thoughts.
Those thoughts initially had little to do with the opposing pitcher. Na realized the day marked the one-year anniversary of his career-saving surgery. He recalled being placed on a stretcher and eventually driven off the field in an ambulance, wondering if he would ever play baseball again.
“My injury was really serious, so coming back on the field felt kind of weird. I was thinking about all of last year, all the hard work I had done in rehab to get to that point,” Na said during a phone interview with ESPN. “I thought of everything that happened, but I wasn’t nervous. It was fun to be back. Opening Day was exactly one year from my knee surgery. May 5, 2019, was the day of my surgery. And I thought about that, and about how much fun it was to be finally back on the field.”
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On Tuesday, May 5, the KBO became one of the world’s first professional sports leagues to start its 2020 season, after a five-week delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Opening Day slate of games in South Korea included a matchup between the NC Dinos and Samsung Lions. Batting third for the Dinos, Na opened up scoring in the fourth inning with a colossal home run off lefty Jung-Hyun Baek. Na, batting as a left-handed designated hitter, pulled the shot over the right-field foul pole.
Na ended up going 2-for-3 in the Dinos’ 4-0 win, showing why he was super-agent Scott Boras’ only KBO signing at the end of the 2019 season.cheap nfl nike jerseys china
Because of the knee injury, a shift to playing baseball in the U.S. had to wait. Na, however, isn’t willing to give up on his MLB dreams.
“After the injury, my perspective has not been different. It really didn’t change anything in terms of the mental aspect of the game,” Na explained. “I know I’m always going to work hard. I’m always going to play baseball as hard as I can on the field, with a lot of passion. And while my body may still not at be at 100% when compared to before the injury, I will get there. My mind and focus will never change. I will always believe in myself.”
Na, a 30-year-old outfielder and DH, hopes to follow in the footsteps of his role model, Shin-Soo Choo. Choo left South Korea at 18, joining the Seattle Mariners organization in 2001. Choo became the first Korean-born position player to make an MLB All-Star team, and he is in the last season of a seven-year, $130 million deal with the Texas Rangers.