Kim Kwang-hyun “That fall, the turning point in my baseball life came”

Everyone has fond memories of being nineteen, the last time they were “grown up”. For many professional baseball players, the age of 19 marks the beginning of their journey from the school baseball field to the professional stage.

To celebrate our 19th anniversary, we talked to professional baseball players about their stories when they were 19 years old. We spoke to Choi Hyung-woo (KIA), Ryu Hyun-jin (Hanwha), Yang Hyeon-jong (KIA), Kim Kwang-hyun (SSG), and Yang Ji (Doosan), who are making history by leading the KBO League as high school graduates. They share their memories of being drafted, their first year in the league, the biggest obstacles in their baseball careers that they didn’t realize at the age of 19, and what they would tell their 19-year-old selves now.

“David defeated Goliath.”

That’s the first sentence of a Sports Illustrated article about Game 4 of the Korean Series between SK (now SSG) and Doosan at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on October 26, 2007. The David here is left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun (36-SSG), a high school rookie at the time.

After being selected by SK with the first overall pick in the 2007 KBO Draft, Kim went 3-7 with a 3.62 ERA in 20 regular-season games that year. Not bad for a rookie, but it was a bit of a disappointment for Kim, who came to the professional ranks after dominating the high school scene at Ansan Public High School.

Kim’s real breakthrough came in the Korean Series, where the stakes were much higher than in the regular season. He started Game 4 with the series down 1-2 and faced Doosan ace Daniel Rios, who had won 22 games in the regular season. The matchup reminded people of the battle between Goliath and David.

However, Kim Kwang-hyun defied the odds and dominated the start against Rios. He pitched the “game of his life,” allowing one hit, two walks, and nine strikeouts in 7.1 innings to lead his team to a 4-0 victory. Rios gave up three runs in five innings. With the momentum turned around, SK swept Games 5 and 6 to win its first Korean Series title in franchise history.

Kim Kwang-hyun, 19, cites Game 4 of the Korean Series as his most memorable game. “I was nervous because we were down in the series, and I had to start against their ace,” he recalls, “and I was objectively at a disadvantage, but I was able to pitch well in that disadvantage and have confidence in my pitches.”

“When I pitched in the top of the first inning with a 1-0 lead, I got the leadoff hitter and I was able to relax,” he said, adding, “In a way, that game was the turning point in my baseball career.”

Kim had a tough time adjusting to the professional game in his first year. He was happy that he had made it to his dream team, and he was looking forward to playing professionally after being 토토 drafted in the first round. But the barrier was higher than he expected.

“The first half of the season was tough,” he reflects, “I went into it with a lot of confidence, but it didn’t go as well as I thought it would.” “I felt the professional barrier, and I definitely felt the difference from the amateur,” he says.

“It was a period of trial and error to figure out what was wrong. I was nervous, so I didn’t show my full potential,” he said, adding, ”There were many people who gave me advice and consideration, especially my older brothers, whether they were pitchers or fielders, who came up to me and encouraged me. I was blessed to have good seniors around me,” he said.

The following year, Kim had his best year ever, going 16-4 with a 2.39 ERA in 27 games, winning the regular season Most Valuable Player (MVP) award and the Pitcher’s Golden Glove. After becoming one of the best left-handed pitchers in the KBO, he joined Major League Baseball (MLB) St. Louis after the 2019 season and spent two years in the big leagues. Now in his late 30s, he continues to pitch competitively as SSG’s ace.

“I would tell the 19-year-old Kim Kwang-hyun not to think too much in a box,” he said. As a rookie, he felt a lot of fear because he thought, ‘What if I can’t do it? “I wish I could enjoy baseball according to my age,” he said, adding that “it’s never good to pay too much attention to game results and grades.”


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