Park Chan Ho, who 30 years ago became South Korea's first Major League Baseball player, brought history with him when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch of the 2024 MLB season in Seoul.

"This is the glove I wore when I made my MLB debut 30 years ago. To use it, I had to actually take it from a museum," Park told a press conference before MLB opened its season with its first two games in South Korea on Wednesday.

Park said the games at Seoul's Gocheok Sky Dome are extremely meaningful both for him and his country, with his first pro team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, playing the San Diego Padres and their star Korean shortstop Kim Ha Seong.

Although he finished with 124 career MLB wins, a record among Asian pitchers, Park's time in the States got off to a stuttering start in 1994. He credited Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo with giving his career a rebirth the next year and motivating him at the end.

Park Chan Ho, the first South Korean athlete to play in Major League Baseball, throws out the ceremonial first pitch ahead of the first game of MLB's season-opening two-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres at Seoul's Gocheok Sky Dome on March 20, 2024. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

"Thirty years ago, I was with the Dodgers in the major leagues, but then I was sent to the minors," Park said. "Then (in 1995) Hideo Nomo came and attracted the attention of major league fans, and it felt like I was able to enter through that gate that Nomo opened."

"He helped give me that opportunity to come back to the major leagues. As teammates, we had a great time and after that, other Asian players...entered through that door, too. And now we have players like Kim Ha Seong in MLB. Going forward, I think many more great Asian players will go to MLB and I wish them success."

He extended that wish to the Padres' Opening Day starter, Yu Darvish, whose 103 MLB wins make him a candidate to break Park's record.

"He should break it," Park said. "Records are a great thing for players to strive for. In 2007, I was in the minors and I thought my career was over. But Nomo then had the record of 123, and he had not quit, and that inspired me to keep going."

"Darvish should break my record and then another pitcher will come along from Asia someday and break his. It's a good thing."

Park said his Dodgers success also forged a link between the club and his homeland when it was enduring hard times in the 1990s.

"For many Korean baseball fans, the Dodgers may have been their first love, and when the Dodgers gave lots of hope to the Korean people who faced lots of struggles," he said. "Now when you see Koreans in their 50s, 60s and 70s, they have really good memories of the Dodgers."

"But now, the young people are supporting many Korean players on different teams."

He singled out Asia's latest generation, including Kim and Japan's Shohei Ohtani for their poise and leadership.

"At dinner, Ha Seong had a little speech and it gave some inspiration and motivation to other players...his public speech was great," Park said. "Thirty years ago, I couldn't say a word. I could contribute but I couldn't make a speech in front of players."

"But if you look at the WBC, he also had a great speech to inspire other players. It's great and wonderful to see that (too) in the path of Ha Seong's journey."

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