The San Diego Padres' Yu Darvish is going from one first to another this week in Seoul, where he will pitch in Major League Baseball's first game in South Korea and appears to be savoring every minute of the experience, even the thought of his first confrontation with superstar Japanese compatriot Shohei Ohtani.

On Monday, Darvish told a press conference that one of his challenges will be facing Ohtani for the first time and treating that at-bat against a two-time MVP in MLB whom he once mentored as if it were nothing special.

"We've been training together now and then, but this time he'll be my opponent, so I need to study hard, not let my personal feelings enter into it and face him as if he were just another hitter," said Darvish, who on Wednesday will start off against Ohtani's Los Angeles Dodgers, the Padres' most prominent National League West rivals.

San Diego Padres pitcher Yu Darvish attends a press conference at Seoul's Gocheok Sky Dome on March 18, 2024, ahead of the season-opening two-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on March 20 and 21. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Their clash as new rivals comes just a year after they were teammates for the first time, with Samurai Japan in the World Baseball Classic. Darvish was a crucial veteran mentor to a young Japan team that won the 2023 championship, with Ohtani being named tournament MVP.

Darvish said that although he had never visited South Korea before, it was a country he thought highly of, and it gave him a chance for a special reunion by visiting a cafe run by a couple he had met before in the United States.

San Diego Padres pitcher Yu Darvish works out at Seoul's Gocheok Sky Dome on March 18, 2024. (Kyodo)

"They've been cheering me on for 10 years, and I've had the opportunity to interact with them when they came to Texas (during my time with the Rangers) and to Arizona for spring training," Darvish said. "They are very cheerful, which is a quality I don't possess, so I'm really glad to have met them."

"Now I'm going to get to pitch in front of the Korean fans. And because we are facing the Dodgers, I'm happy about that too," said Darvish, who will start against the Dodgers' Tyler Glasnow in the opener.

Darvish, however, is not the only one eating up this rare event. The Padres have brought a quartet of Asian stars, including South Korean Gold Glove shortstop Kim Ha Seong, and the local fans are proud as punch.

Lee Hyun Seo, a 20-year-old fan of Kim's from his days with Seoul's Kiwoom Heroes, who play their home games at the same park, Gocheok Sky Dome, said, "He joined the Padres, and then came back to Korea for the MLB Series, so I'm very proud of him."

Related coverage:

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Baseball: Shohei Ohtani begins 1st Dodgers spring training

Baseball: Darvish says rivalry with Ohtani's Dodgers is growing