Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang, who’s been out of MLB since 2016 due to multiple DUI arrests in his native Korea, has been granted a work visa by the U.S. government and will return to his old team, the Pirates announced today. A since-deleted tweet from an immigration attorney appears to show that Kang has already arrived in America.
Following a successful career in the KBO, Kang signed with the Pirates in January 2015, and hit for a .273 average and slugged .483 in two seasons with Pittsburgh. But in 2016, Kang was the subject of a sexual-assault investigation in Chicago (his alleged victim stopped cooperating with police, and no charges were filed). He also admitted guilt in a South Korean court for a December 2016 DUI charge, his third since 2009. Kang received a suspended sentence, and his crime kept him out of the U.S. for the 2017 season, as his request for a work visa was denied.
At age 31, Kang needs to prove he can still play, especially after a disastrous stint in the Dominican Winter League in 2017. But the Pirates’ statement reads as very welcoming towards the player, with team president Frank Coonelly saying that he is both “pleased” and “encouraged” by the recent developments. After completing an alcohol-treatment program, Kang will report to a team facility in Florida as he works to get back into shape.