Kia Tigers left-handed fireballer Kim Ki-hoon (23) has warned of a harsh winter ahead.
On Nov. 27, KIA announced five players to be sent to the Canberra Cavaliers of the Australian Baseball League (ABL). In addition to Kim Ki-hoon, pitchers Kwak Do-kyu, Kim Hyun-soo, Hong Won-bin, and infielder Park Min were named. With the exception of Kim Hyun-soo, who joins the team as compensation for Ahn Chi-hong, who became a free agent with the Lotte Giants in 2020, the other four were top-round picks by the KIA for their potential.
“We decided to send players who need practical experience due to military service and players who lack first-team experience to give them a chance to play,” said KIA President Shim Jae-hak. “We expect our players to improve their skills against high-level foreign players.”
It’s an opportunity that Kia has worked hard to create for its prospects. With Geelong Korea unable to send players to the ABL this year, the organization looked for alternatives, and in September, Shim met with the Canberra owners to secure a spot for five prospects.
Kim Ki-hoon was also named to the roster for the final camp in Okinawa, Japan, which KIA announced on Sept. 26. He is the only one of the five players confirmed to go to Australia. The Okinawa camp will be held from November 1 to 28, and the five KIA players in the ABL will play a total of 40 games, starting with the opening game on November 17 and ending on January 21 of next year. Kim Ki-hoon will spend three months from November to January without a break.
Kim will first build up his body in Okinawa and then travel directly from Okinawa to Australia in time for the ABL schedule. While the date of his departure hasn’t been finalized, it’s clear that he wants to train in Okinawa for at least 10 more days to ensure he’s ready for the 2024 season. The other four players – Kwak Do-gyu, Hong Won-bin, Kim Hyun-soo, and Park Min – will train in Gwangju before traveling to Australia together.토토사이트
Kim Ki-hoon is a left-handed fireballer who graduated from Gwangju Dongseong High School and joined the KIA Tigers in 2019 as a first-round pick. He was expected to be the ‘post Yang Hyun-jong’ as he throws a fastball that exceeds 150 kilometers per hour, but he has yet to see the light of day in the first team. So far this year, he has appeared in 75 games in the first team with a 5-10 record, 171⅓ innings pitched, and a 5.10 ERA. He has 123 strikeouts, fewer than his 140 walks. That means his pitches were struggling.
In the end, he took a job at Commerce to clear his head and deal with his military issues. Kim Ki-hoon worked to completely revamp his pitching form at the club, focusing on his command of his pitches. In the 2021 Futures League, he went 4-2 with a 4.15 ERA in 13 games and 52 innings pitched, but in the 2022 Futures League, he went 6-2 with a 2.95 ERA in 16 games and 85⅓ innings pitched. He struck out 94 batters while walking just 31, a noticeable change. Upon his release in 2022, he posted a 1.04 ERA in 8⅔ innings in five first-team games, signaling a turnaround. He still threw a 150-kilometer fastball and refined his pitches, so expectations were high.
At the time of his discharge, Kim said, “I changed my pitching form, my release point became consistent and I became more balanced. In the past, I was stressed because I wanted to throw strikes but they didn’t go in. I’m still not very precise,” he said, adding that he still has some work to do, but he seemed to have gained some confidence.
However, they were overtaken by the momentum of their juniors. As Lee and Yoon established themselves in the starting rotation this year, Kim was relegated to the bullpen. In the bullpen, Kim’s struggles with his pitches resurfaced, and he finished with just two wins, 31⅔ innings pitched, and a 4.60 ERA in 29 games. It must have been frustrating for Kim to come back from the military and not perform as well as he had hoped.
We can’t help but wonder what a three-month stint this winter will bring. It shows how important the 2024 season is for both Kim and the club. While it may be physically demanding for Kim to play a full season and prepare for the winter, he has chosen to push himself to his limits. Will he be able to step up to the plate with the other prospects in the ABL and return to add to the Kia mound in 2024?