Go to contents

Slugger Kim Ready for Pro Season After WBC Heroics

Posted March. 27, 2009 08:47,   


The cleanup hitter of Korea’s national baseball team still looked robust.

Kim Tae-kyun returned home for the first time in three months yesterday after a 15-hour flight but got only four hours of sleep. His eyes were red with lack of sleep and fatigue, but he looked bright.

The Hanwha Eagles star spoke to The Dong-A Ilbo at a hotel in southern Seoul after he and the national team attended a luncheon with President Lee Myung-bak yesterday.

When slugger Lee Seung-yeop (Yomiuri Giants) declined to join the national team for the World Baseball Classic late last year, a major weakness at cleanup hitter was feared. Some even predicted Korea would not advance to the quarterfinals.

Once the tournament began, however, Kim was more than able replacement for Lee. A unanimous selection on the all-tournament team, he hit .345 with a tournament-high three homers and tied for the lead in runs batted in with 11.

“Lee and I are on different levels. Look at the records Lee set. I still have a long way to go,” Kim said.

Kim’s voice rose as the topic moved to Major League Baseball of the United States. “I’ve become so confident through the WBC. People say Major League pitchers are great. To me, they were just a little better than foreign players in the Korean baseball league,” he said.

Still, he spoke highly of Japanese pitchers.

“Yu Darvish had fastballs, but Hisashi Iwakuma’s pitches were the most difficult to hit,” Kim said. “Japanese baseball was also harder to play against than Major League Baseball.”

He was escorted under police protection after he arrived at Incheon International Airport. Airport staff queued up to take photos with him or asked for his autograph, a sign of his soaring popularity.

“It doesn’t feel bad to attract fan attention, but this is no time for me talk about it yet. I have to do my best for team Hanwha. Personally, my goal is to bat .300 or higher,” he said.

Kim spent plenty of time talking on the phone with his older sister, who gave birth to a son, when he was in Tokyo during the tournament.

“I wanted to become a good uncle. But my family told me about my older sister giving birth much later due to concern that the news might distract me. When I found out about this, I felt sorrier,” he said.

Kim went to a television commentator and told him about the birth of his nephew. Kim’s sister heard his congratulatory message on a national television program.

The slugger said he will play for the national team if selected again, though he has already earned a draft exemption in 2006.

“Korean baseball has become really strong,” he said. “Team Korea will do better in the 2013 tournament.”