Kim Jae-hwan (Doosan), who is dreaming of a resurgence, visited former major leaguer Kang Jung-ho, who helped Son As-seob (NC) become the first batting champion in his career, to get some hitting tips.
“I don’t doubt (Kim Jae-hwan’s resurgence next year) because he went to a friend of mine,” Doosan catcher Yang Yang-ji told reporters after becoming the first winner of the Defensive Catcher Award at the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO Awards held at the Westin Chosun Hotel Grand Ballroom in Seoul on April 27.굿모닝토토
The “friend” Yang is referring to is Kang Jeong-ho, a former KBO shortstop and major leaguer who has since retired from active play and runs a baseball academy in Los Angeles. A Doosan official told OSEN, “Kim Jae-hwan returned the break of his own volition and left for training in the United States. I heard that he is taking batting practice at Kang Jeong-ho’s academy in the United States.”
After a two-year slump after signing a four-year, 11.5 billion won free agent contract, Jae-hwan participated in the Icheon finishing camp from Oct. 31 to Nov. 24, where he was put through a man-to-man hell by manager Lee Seung-yeop. Normally, rookies who have not yet established their baseball careers participate in the finishing camp, but the manager’s request and the player’s will combined to make the 16-year veteran’s unusual finishing training possible. Kim Jae-hwan dreamed of reviving his season in the third year of his free agent contract by learning how to hit home runs from Lee, who was called the national hitter during his active career.
Kim Jae-hwan returned his December break and voluntarily boarded a plane to the United States on the 26th. He said, “I want to join the spring training in February while remembering what I felt during the finishing camp in December and January.” To maintain the sense of finishing training, he chose Kang Jeong-ho, who was an expert in long-hitting during his active career, as his mentor.
Kang Jeong-ho was drafted by Hyundai in the eighth round of the 2006 KBO draft out of Gwangju Ilbo. He then earned a Major League Baseball uniform with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014 after hitting .305 with 40 homers, 117 RBIs and 103 runs scored in 117 games with the Heroes, and then became the Pirates’ center fielder with 15 homers in 2015 and 21 in 2016. Retiring after the 2019 season, Kang’s major league career numbers are 297 games, 25-for-56, 46 home runs, 144 RBI, 120 runs scored, and a .796 OPS.
The Kang Jeong-ho Academy has already been an issue in the KBO. NC center fielder Son As-seop visited Kang ahead of the 2023 season to work on his batting form, which led to him winning his first KBO batting title at the tender age of 36. “My brother Kang helped me regain my good form. I was able to find a normal swing trajectory,” he said of the Kang effect.
The Doosan team is confident of Kim’s resurgence next season. The fact that he traveled to the U.S. at his own expense during his inactivity was a sign of a changed mindset, and the team is looking forward to a different season in 2024.
“When I watched the video, I saw (Kim) Jae-hwan hitting hard. We talked a lot about this and that in the middle of the season, but he was struggling. Rather than telling him what to do, I gave him mental advice to help him play well again.” “I think he’ll get through it. He went to my friend (Kang Jung-ho), so I’m sure he will.”
Lee, who led the hell training, also said, “It’s a period of self-discipline. It’s not a situation I can look over. If we take the same training we did in the final camp in December, we will be better in January, and if we move forward step by step like that, we will be better in February.” “I believe that our problems will come out again through spring training and exhibition games, but if we catch them little by little, we will be able to achieve a performance that will make us forget about the two-year slump. No, I believe it. Kim Jae-hwan has nowhere to hide,” he said, predicting a bright 2024 season for the 11.5 billion won pitcher.