By Yoo Jee-ho
INCHEON, May 25 (Yonhap) -- There are a lot of smiles about these days for Park Dong-won, the slugging catcher for the LG Twins who leads the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) with 12 home runs this season.
Park blasted a pair of dingers in Thursday's 8-3 victory over the SSG Landers at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, some 30 kilometers west of Seoul. First, it was a three-run shot during the five-run first inning. Park then led off the eighth inning with a scorching line drive shot to extend the Twins' lead to 7-3.
Only 43 games into the season, Park is already halfway past his career high of 22 home runs from the 2021 season. Despite batting in the bottom third of the lineup, Park is getting some early-season MVP buzz.
The victory pushed the Twins back to first place at 28-15-1 (wins-losses-ties), one game ahead of the Landers.
"I hope the season would end right about now," Park said with a smile. "We're in first place. So it'd be nice to wrap up the season quickly."
Park, who signed with the Twins as a free agent last winter, has been a huge part of the team's early-season success. He has replaced catcher Yoo Kang-nam, who left the Twins in free agency to join the Lotte Giants. Yoo is two years younger than Park and is considered better at framing pitches, with Park providing more offensive punch.
But even the most optimistic of Twins fans couldn't have predicted this kind of offensive surge from Park in his age-33 season.
"When I first got here, I was just worried about filling Kang-nam's shoes. He's a great catcher, and I tried to think of things I could do better than he could," Park said. "Honestly, it doesn't matter whether I have a better season than Kang-nam or not. Our team is doing so well. I want to be able to get the last laugh in the end."
Both of Park's homers Thursday night were line drive shots that left the homer-friendly park in a hurry. He did his best impression of major league hitters known for line drive homers, such as Giancarlo Stanton and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
"I am fan of all of those home run hitters in the majors," Park said. "I've been working hard on driving the ball, and all that hard work is paying off."