“Our players didn’t think so.”
This year’s NC Dinos were the underdogs. After winning the inaugural championship three years ago, the NC has consistently played fall baseball, but the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 left them in seventh place, and last year’s sixth-place finish didn’t have the majesty of a champion. Heading into this season, the team was said to be weakened by the loss of national catcher Yang Ji in free agency. However, NC remained in the top half of the standings throughout the season and is back in the postseason for the first time in three years.
The criticism continued into the postseason. When Triple Crown ace Eric Pedroia was ruled out of the wild-card game due to injury, there was some speculation that the fifth-place Doosan Bears, led by Kwak-Bin-Brandon Waddell, could fall behind. The semifinals were also supposed to start with three or four starters, but NC has rattled off three straight postseason wins and is just one game out of the playoffs.
Kim Young-kyu, who has 24 saves this year, the most of any left-handed pitcher, wasn’t swayed by the outside assessment. “I didn’t think about it as much as our team,” he said. I didn’t think we were weak, and I thought that if we did well as we prepared, we would definitely have a chance to show a good performance. I think that each and every one of those beliefs led to the good results we have now.”
In the process, Kim has appeared in all three games, recording two wins, one loss and 3⅓ scoreless innings. He said, “It’s good to be out there a lot. Every time I go out, I’m happier that the team wins,” he said. “I’ve done two-game streaks and three-game streaks in the regular season, and even though there are a lot of games left in the (postseason), I don’t think it’s too much to ask, and I think if every batter is the last batter and I throw with concentration, I think I’ll have good results.”
He pitched 61⅔ innings in 63 regular-season games. He was the third-most frequent pitcher in the NC behind Ryu Jin-wook (70 games) and Lim Jung-ho (65 games). “The weather is good, and even if I’m having a hard time, it’s not just me, everyone is having a hard time, so I’m thinking positively. We all do our best together, so luck seems to follow and the results are good,” he smiled.
It was a dizzying start to the postseason. In the fifth inning of the 5-5 wild-card deciding game against Doosan on April 19, he was on second and third base when back-to-back walks loaded the bases. He fought a full-count battle with pinch-hitter Park Jun-young, who struck out swinging. Looking back on the moment, Kim said, “I was trying to play hard because I was in the bottom of the order, and I knew that if I gave up one run, I would lose the game, but it became more difficult when I struck out.”
On the moment he struck out, he said, “I think it’s luck in the short game. I didn’t think about anything else at the time because I thought that if I was confident, the results would follow.”스포츠토토
Kim won a gold medal at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games as a replacement for Koo Chang-mo. He returned to the NC as one of the “Golden Boy Trio” alongside Kim Joo-won and Kim Hyung-joon to help the team win the postseason. “I didn’t play many games, but it was a really good experience. I felt pressure and was nervous, but I think that experience helps,” he said. “People around us said good things about us (after the gold medal), and we feel good, so we work harder.”
He was also selected to the final 26-man roster for the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) next month. “I’m honored and grateful to be called up. I’m just going to do my best to pitch then, too,” he said.
However, if NC advances to the Korean Series, his participation in the APBC may be canceled, but Young-gyu said, “It’s not for me to judge, only the baseball I’m given…I haven’t thought about it, so I think it’s a little sensitive. I’m sorry.” He didn’t want to let go of both the Korean Series and the Taegeuk mark.