Can Kang Baek-ho (24-KT Wiz) regain the honor of a genius hitter next season after controversy and untimely injuries derailed his magical journey?
KT lost to LG in Game 5 of the Korean Series on May 13, ending their V2 challenge with a 1-4 record. However, KT’s journey to the 2023 season was enough for many to applaud. It made a miraculous regular-season second-place finish from last place in June, then rallied from two losses in the playoffs to win three straight games to complete the third playoff reverse sweep in franchise history. Then, in the Korean Series, they showed off their second-place status by winning Game 1 and sweeping Games 2 and 3.
However, Kang Baek-ho, the team’s signature hitter, was not part of the magical fall journey after appearing in 71 regular-season games. His postseason hopes were dashed when he tore his right adductor muscle while swinging in the playoffs against the Blue and White on March 26. Lee was more motivated than ever to make up for the disappointment of the regular season, but it was too much. “I told him not to hit so hard, but…” said Lee Kang-chul.
KT utilized new designated hitter cards such as Moon Sang-cheol and Kim Min-hyuk instead of Kang Baek-ho in the fall, 먹튀검증토토사이트 but they were unable to completely fill the gap left by the game-changing hitter. As center fielders such as Park Byung-ho and Anthony Alford fell into terrible hitting slumps, the nostalgia for Kang Baek-ho grew even stronger. Lee said, “Kang Baek-ho is not an easy hitter for pitchers to face. I think he would have been much better than nothing.”
In fact, Kang’s sixth professional season got off to a rocky start.
His misfortune began at the 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March. In the first game against Australia, which was considered a watershed moment for the team to reach the quarterfinals, Kang sparked public outrage with a so-called ‘serenade’. After hitting a double and facing the third base dugout with the bases loaded, his foot momentarily left the second base and he was tagged out by the second baseman’s glove.
Kang’s unprofessional behavior threw a wrench into the chase, and he became the butt of jokes around the world after the game. Major sports media outlets around the world posted the video on social media with the theme, “This is what the world looks like. South Korea was knocked out in the first round of the World Baseball Classic after failing to overcome the shock of the loss to Australia, and Kang Baek-ho became the center of criticism.
Just two months after his controversial ceremony, Kang Baek-ho disappointed baseball fans with another boneheaded play.
It was the bottom of the fifth inning on May 18 against LG Electronics in Jamsil. With KT leading 3-2, starter Ko Young-pyo gave up a leadoff single to Park Hae-min and then Kim Hyun-soo followed with a single to right.
Kang Baek-ho, playing right field, caught Kim Hyun-soo’s throw, and Park Hae-min used his quick feet to steal second base and reach third. With runners on first and third, it was Park who scored.
Expecting Park to stop at third base, Kang Baek-ho took the pitch and slowly walked out of the batter’s box, sending a high parabolic throw to second baseman Jang Jun-won. Jang Jun-won, who was late to catch Kang Baek-ho’s arcing throw, looked toward home, but Park Hae-min had already scored. It was a heartbreaking 3-3 tie.
Kang Baek-ho was eventually sidelined for the rest of June and August due to extreme mental stress.
After recovering his body and mind, Kang returned to the first team on Sept. 5, batting 3-for-3 in the month of September, marking the return of the genius. He then headed to the Hangzhou Asian Games, where he won the coveted gold medal and finally put a smile on his face.
Healing from his mental illness, he prepared for the postseason with more enthusiasm than any other athlete, dreaming of a second ring.
Kang Baek-ho’s 2023 season started as a ceremony and ended with an injury. According to KT officials, Kang Baek-ho is currently undergoing rehabilitation and hopes to make a comeback next season. It will be interesting to see if he can use his eventful 2023 to regain the honor of a genius hitter in 2024.