It’s been a long time since the start of the season, and it’s been a busy one for Kim, who hasn’t had much time to catch his breath after coming up late to the first team. For catcher Kim Hyung-jun (NC Dinos), the fall has been as fast-paced as ever, as he has excelled on both the club and national teams.
Drafted by NC with the ninth overall pick in the second round of the 2018 KBO First-Year Player Draft, Kim resolved his military issues after enlisting in the Sangsang (Armed Forces Athletic Corps) in 2021. But last year, as he was on the verge of being drafted, he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and went under the knife, and in May of this year, after returning to the team, he tore a ligament in his right ankle and had to undergo rehabilitation. It wasn’t until late August that he was able to play his first first-team game of the season.
Despite his lack of first-team experience so far this season, Kim’s experience before joining the national team and in the Futures League makes him a valuable resource for the national team. That’s why he was able to make the squad for the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games, even though there were question marks over his fitness.
Contrary to expectations, Kim became the team’s starting catcher and contributed significantly to the team’s fourth consecutive victory at the Games. For the team, they found a new starter, and for the player, it was a confidence booster.
That confidence carried over to fall baseball. Kim was a regular in the starting lineup after returning to the team and started all nine games in the postseason. He even hit a home run in the wild-card game and the second game of the semifinals to help the team win. Although NC’s fall baseball season came to an end in the playoffs, the efforts of players such as Kim resonated with fans.
Kim put the postseason disappointment behind him and headed back to the national team.
“In 2020, I watched from the dugout, and in this postseason, I played for the first time,” he said after the second day of the seven-day training camp, which concluded with the Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) 2023 squad. I tried to enjoy it like a regular season rather than thinking about doing well, but as we got closer and closer to a situation where we could win and the team could advance to the Korean Series, I wanted to win more and more. When it was over, I was very disappointed,” he said of the postseason.
“I was the last batter (in Game 5 of the playoffs against the KT Wiz), and when I was at bat, I took one look at the ballpark and thought, ‘I didn’t play a lot of baseball this year, so is it already ending like this, or will I have to wait until next spring to see something like this? After the game, my brothers were crying, too, so I got a little teary-eyed watching them. When I was in the locker room, I thought my coach was going to cry, too, and I think I cried because I remembered how hard it was for me to rehabilitate over the past year.” 무지개토토 도메인
Despite missing the Korean Series, the team gained a lot in a short time. On the one hand, the tight schedule without enough rest days took a toll on their physical strength.
“After the Asian Games, I didn’t realize it, I was just tired, but when I played again, I realized that my stamina had dropped.