KIA Tigers infielder Kim Do-yeong (20) confirmed the trust of the club, which was most needed for a rookie right-handed hitter, and dreamed of becoming a starting player.
Last year, Kim Do-young was the super rookie who received the most attention in the KBO League. He recorded a batting average of 0.432 in the demonstration game and won the batting title, and became the first high school graduate to lead off the opening game in Tigers history. Stage 1 was harsh. During the month of April, he had a batting average of 0.179 (15 hits in 84 at-bats) in 22 games, and in the first half of the year, he played only as a backup to the point of digesting only 93 at-bats in 45 games in the first half.
Kim Do-young, whom I met at Incheon International Airport before departing for the US spring camp on the 30th of last month, said, “It was a year with a lot of regrets. I think it was a good year just by doing it. I will try to make the batting form (established last year) my own even after going to spring camp.”
It was Kim Do-young, who was so sluggish, but KIA did not send him down to the Futures League team and taught him in the first team throughout the first half. He learned the necessity of setting up his own strike zone from his seniors and had time to redefine his hitting form with his hitting coaches. The results of the special training began to emerge in the second half. Kim Do-young, who had a batting average of 0.220 in the first half, gradually began to show hitting the ball with a batting average of 0.283 in 36 games in the second half. The number of walks and strikeouts also improved markedly from 13 walks and 43 strikeouts in the first half to 9 walks and 19 strikeouts in the second half. Kim Do-young’s first-year performance ended with a batting average of 0.237 (53 hits in 224 bats), 3 homers, 19 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, and an OPS of 0.674 in 103 games.
The Australian Baseball League (ABL) dispatch to Geelong Korea was also a plan to help him gain a lot of batting experience. However, due to an injury discovered right after the season, Kim Gyu-seong (26) went to Australia instead.
Kim Do-young said, “In the beginning, I really wanted to go, so I said to the club, ‘Can I go?’. But the club said, ‘I won’t send you for protection’, and I thought I was treated to some extent just for that.” He continued, “스포츠토토 is a word with a lot of weight to me, so I thought it would be a year to learn more as much as I couldn’t go to Geelong, and I moved a little busier. I think I did a lot of core exercises while doing Pilates during the off-season.” added.
The trust and communication shown by the club are very important for a rookie to grow. This is especially true for young right-handed hitters who need consistent at-bat experience. A KBO team official who positively viewed Kim Do-young’s performance last year told Star News, “There is no rookie who can achieve that kind of performance in the first year. He doesn’t get that many strikeouts for a rookie, and his pure slugging percentage is above average. Next year, he will be better. I think it would be good to look forward to the results,” he said.
Another club official B said, “Kim Do-young had too high expectations in the beginning, but I think he is doing well. Right-handed hitters need more time to adapt than left-handed hitters. At least three years are necessary for adaptation,” he said, explaining the need for ample opportunities.
In that respect, until now, KIA and Kim Do-young are moving in the right direction. In any decision, the club made the players understand through sufficient explanations, and on the field, they are motivated by foretelling infinite competition regardless of the year.
The ‘former super rookie’ who confirmed the trust of the club is now only thinking about moving forward. Kim Do-young said, “This year, my top priority is to establish myself as a starting player in any position.” The goal is to instill trust,” he said.