JUPITER, Fla. — Cardinals camp hasn't even officially started yet in Jupiter, but it's already evident who the first rock star of 2020 spring training is going to be.
New Korean left-handed pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim, or "KK" as he likes to be called, is the big man in camp.
Kim was followed by a gaggle of a dozen or so Korean media members on Monday when he arrived at the Cardinals' complex to do some light running and throwing.
The Cardinals signed Kim away from the SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization this offseason on a two-year, $8 million deal.
The lefty was the 2008 KBO MVP and one of the top pitchers in the league with a lot of fans back in Korea. At Cardinals spring training, we caught up with one reporter covering Kim this season.
"He's a top-class player in Korea. Korea has a Korean league. I believe he's the No. 1 player as a pitcher," reporter Sungyoon Ko said. "That's why he came here to the Major Leagues."
Since Kim's popularity in South Korea is so massive, some fans were a bit bummed to see him leave for the Major Leagues.
"His team allowed him to come here, though. That's why he came here," Ko said. "Some of them (Korean fans) are disappointed, especially his home team fans."
But Ko said Korean baseball fans aren't too upset, and they're ready to root for another one of their countrymen in the Major Leagues.
"A lot like (Blue Jays pitcher) Hyun-Jin Ryu. I think it's almost similar," Ko said. "Koreans are very interested in one of Korea's top players playing in the biggest league. They are very excited."
So don't be surprised if South Korea suddenly becomes Cardinals crazy. Ko said the country will be watching, no matter what.
"I think so. Of course. They don't care. Night or day. Early mornings. Like Hyun-Jin Ryu, same thing. They watch him," Ko said.
Kim is expected to compete for a spot in the starting rotation with the Cardinals this spring. But with Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson, Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez written in pencil to be the rotation, Kim might find a niche as a lefty reliever out of the bullpen.