Posted October. 28, 2009 00:19,
SK Wyverns manager Kim Sung-keun spoke to The Dong-A Ilbo yesterday at an empty Munhak Baseball Stadium in Incheon.
Despite his team losing the Korean Series over the weekend in the seventh and deciding game, he looked comfortable until baseball became the subject of the interview.
Dong-A: You must be feeling down over Game 7.
Kim: On one hand, its good that the Kia Tigers won the title. Their victory will slightly steer hostility against our team by other squads, fans and the media. Of course, its a great pity that our team failed to win a third straight title, but Im really proud of our players for their unbelievable performance. We won 19 straight games late in the regular season, rallied to win in the playoffs, and forced a Game 7 in the Korean Series. This could be achieved only by the Wyverns. For our players, 2009 was a year in which they let everyone know that we never give up.
Dong-A: Other teams say SK is extreme in its methods.
Kim: Generally, most people dont like others who can do something they cant. If you look at baseball teams in the world, no team trains the way we do. In the postseason, our players even got injections to play games. Making more effort means the obsession with victory also gets bigger. Those who dont make all-out efforts might hate this aspect of us.
Dong-A: Many people have been touched by your teams games, but a lot more do not like SK, saying your games are not exciting.
Kim: Lets consider Kim Yu-na. Her outstanding performance has literally been built on her blood and sweat. This is the attitude of professional athletes. Baseball games are no different. Baseball is not a pastime for me, but cutthroat competition. We had the lowest earned run average in the league this year. How was this possible? Good pitchers? No. The reason is that I never give up a game even when were set to lose. If I change the pitcher in the bottom of the ninth inning when we lead 5-0, fans blame me. But who knows whatll happen?
Lets consider the flip side. If you give up a game when you think all is lost, fans at the stadium will get discouraged. Only by never giving up under any circumstance can you build a strong team. Even when you lose, you must do your best until the end of a game. If somebody considers such efforts extreme, he or she is an amateur, not a professional.
Dong-A: Your players say they are happy to play for such a team.
Kim: Good teamwork is different from a pleasant atmosphere. Teamwork means that all members strive toward a common goal. Pitcher Kim Won-hyong was on our roster for the Korean Series in 2007 and last year, but didnt play. Nevertheless, he didnt express disappointment at all. He just dedicated himself to our outstanding performance. This season, our captain Kim Jae-hyun did well.
Dong-A: Isnt it hard for players to work so closely?
Kim: (Outfielder) Park Jae-hong is a man of great self-respect. He mustve felt bad since I forced him to split time in the majors and minors. I once asked him to base out a bunt but he failed. He failed again the next time. He visited my office one day and said, Our team lost our last game because of me. In response, I said, Its ok but Im really happy to see you come here. He then hugged me and cried for a long time. Since then, he seems to have opened his mind.
Dong-A: Your exercise and training regimens are considered extreme. What kind of team do you want?
Kim: Pitchers do not practice unreasonably. On the other hand, hard training doesnt hurt batters if they practice the right way. Baseball is a battle against procedures. You cannot grow without experience. If you hit three balls out of ten, you can become a good batter. But you have to reflect on the remaining seven balls missed. If you pass such a procedure, you could be a far better batter even if you still hit .300. I want to make the Wyverns a strong team, not a good team.
Dong-A: Many forecast that SK will be an overwhelming force next season with the expected return of your leading pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun and catcher Park Kyung-wan.
Kim: I always imagine and prepare for the worst. Most managers who used to be catchers think this way. I was a pitcher but I prefer this way of predicting the future. Its possible that Kim Kwang-hyun might fail to meet my expectations and (pitcher) Jun Byung-du will not have a good performance. I have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Weve overcome several crises because of quick responses. Most of all, our management quickly hired foreign players such as Gary Glover and Ken Kadokura.
Dong-A: You often raise controversy by freely expressing your opinions. It is said that you even have disputes with SK management.
Kim: If Samsung Lions President Kim Eung-yong also worked as a baseball team manager, I wouldnt express my opinions so much. Im no fool. That means I can imagine what reactions my behavior will invite. I feel sorry to our management and fans, but I cannot stay silent when I recognize something wrong. If I say nothing, justice also disappears. I have no idea what complaints management has. I can find my way to get things done if management leaves me alone. But if management ignores my position as a manager or treats me as a subordinate, I have no choice but to fight. Management might complain of hefty training expenses but we have neither bought expensive free agents nor retained them.
Dong-A: Do you find any pleasure in activities other than baseball?
Kim: Baseball is enough. I tried to play golf but it was boring. At first glance, baseball looks simple but has enormous attraction. Even when Im drinking, I think about baseball. The happiest person in the world is someone who is devoted to something. In that aspect, Im very happy.
Dong-A: Why do think many people have affection for you?
Kim: After winning the Korean Series, Kia Tigers manager Cho Bum-hyun thanked me. He is like my son. I can understand how he feels since I consider him family. What matters is family members belonging to others. If a child who doesnt belong to me feels discouraged, several people surrounding the child are also discouraged. After our training, I stayed at my home in Seouls Seongsu district for just one night in March. Whenever I dropped by home, I felt uncomfortable due to too many changes. Sometimes, I even felt as if I might visit someone elses home. (Laughter).