“Coach, you look like you’re going to throw up.”
With the Korean Series in full swing, Kim Jae-hwan (35, Dusan) is undergoing a hellish training camp in Icheon led by Lee Seung-yup. He is hoping to revive his season in the third year of his free agent contract by learning how to hit home runs from Lee Seung-yup, who was called the nation’s best hitter during his active career.
Doosan is holding its 2023 wrap-up camp at Icheon Bears Park since the 31st of last month. Prior to the start of the camp, manager Lee Seung-yeop decided to include Kim Jae-hwan, a 16-year pro, in the final camp, where many rookies are participating and establishing their own baseball.
Once a regular-season MVP with 44 home runs, Kim signed a four-year, 11.5 billion won ($11.5 million) free agent contract with his original team, Doosan, after the 2021 season. However, he failed to live up to the expectations of the club and fans in his first year, batting just 2-for-48 with 23 home runs, 72 RBIs and an .800 OPS in 128 games.
When Lee took the helm in October last year, he immediately set out to revive Kim’s career. After analyzing the player’s problems through in-depth interviews, he worked with hitting coach Koji Goto to give him technical and psychological advice, 바카라사이트 and throughout the regular season, he kept saying, “Kim Jae-hwan is our key player. In the end, Doosan needs Kim Jae-hwan to come alive,” he said throughout the regular season, expressing his infinite trust in the No. 4 hitter.
However, Jae-hwan ended the 2023 season with a career-low, even worse than last year.
In 132 games, he hit .331 with 10 doubles, 10 home runs, 46 RBIs and a .222 on-base percentage, and a season-ending injury to his right hand prevented him from helping the team fight for a spot in the standings. He came off the bench in Game 1 of the wild-card decider against NC and had two hits, but couldn’t bring a smile to his face as fall baseball came to an end after just one game.
When we met at the final camp, Lee said, “I haven’t had a turnaround like that in a year. I hit 23 home runs last year, but I was more sluggish than that. I tried my best to get out of the slump, and I talked to my coach constantly, but I wasn’t as good as I thought. I accepted my worst performance,” he said, adding, “I also felt something from watching Kim Jae-hwan for a year. I also thought about how to become better than I am now, so I asked him to join the camp myself,” he said, reflecting on his year.
“We practiced together a few times during the season, but mainly with the hitting coach. I couldn’t go deep because it was the regular season,” he said. “I told him to trust my experience and my thoughts. Of course, I don’t know if he’ll regain his old form, but we’ll try to make it happen. Kim Jae-hwan is a big part of the team. If he hits, we win, and if he doesn’t, we lose. He’s that influential. We will take responsibility and work together to shake off the two-year slump.”
Kim Jae-hwan has been training with Lee in Icheon, where he is undergoing the so-called “hell training”.
According to Doosan’s official YouTube channel, “Bear Stevie,” Lee personally threw a tee ball to Kim Jae-hwan and said, “You can do the same backswing even if it’s short. If you hit five perfectly, I’ll be happy,” and increased the number by one if it wasn’t perfect. “I didn’t like the sound this time,” he said, guiding the player to a perfect swing.
Jae-hwan decided to hit the last 25 balls and ended up hitting 40. At the end of the session, he dropped his bat and glove to the ground and complained about his lack of stamina, and when Lee said, “Tell me if you’re sick,” he replied, “I feel like I’m going to throw up,” which showed the intensity of the training.
The keyword for Kim Jae-hwan’s final camp is ‘basic’.
His primary goal is to enter next year’s spring training with his batting form and balance reestablished after a string of poor performances. To do so, the national hitter is passing on the know-how of his 467 career home runs (No. 1).
“If you look at Kim Jae-hwan, his batting speed hasn’t dropped, but his body speed has. The same goes for his defense. “I want to give him the know-how to deal with the aftermath of his knee injury, but he doesn’t have the technical skills to deal with it. I will help him go back to the basics and find his good form when his body is falling apart. Of course, I won’t be able to go back to my best, but I’ll try to find a form that will allow me to perform well in my current state,” he said.
It will be interesting to see if Kim Jae-hwan, who has been struggling after signing a mega contract worth 11.5 billion won, can return to the ‘Kim Jae-hwan we know’ in the 2024 season. His determination can be felt in his decision to participate in the final camp.