“I think my analysis of opposing batters is still lacking. I plan to work harder in the future.”
Despite swinging the bat and leading the NC Dinos to victory, Kim only wants to improve.
Kim started as the No. 8 hitter and catcher for the NC Dinos against the Samsung Lions of the 2023 KBO Baseball League at Samsung Lions Park in Daegu on April 1.
From the very beginning of the game, Kim’s bat came alive. He led off the second inning with a 3-0 NC lead and took a three-pitch 135-kilometer fastball from left-handed starter Choi Chae-heung for a 125-meter solo shot to left field.
After taking a breather in the top of the fourth inning with an infield fly, Kim made his presence felt again in the top of the sixth, when NC still led 4-0. With the bases loaded, he battled Samsung right-handed sidearm reliever Woo Kyu-min for seven pitches before hitting a 119-kilometer curveball to left-center field for a two-run double. He then came home on Park Min-woo’s single to left field for his second run of the day.
With momentum on his side, Kim continued to swing the bat sharply in the top of the eighth inning as NC extended its lead to 5-0. He led off with a walk and drove a two-pitch 128-kilometer fork from right-handed reliever Kim Si-hyun over the right field fence for a solo shot. It traveled 115 meters and was his fourth home run of the season. He then grounded out to third base in his final at-bat in the top of the ninth inning before being replaced by Park Dae-on at the start of the bottom of the ninth.
He ended up with five hits, three doubles, two home runs, two RBIs and three runs scored. Behind Kim’s performance, the NC swept Samseong 10-0. With the victory, NC bounced back from a 3-13 loss to the Gwangju KIA Tigers the day before (Aug. 31) to secure fourth place in the standings with 56 wins, two draws and 50 losses.
After the game, Kim beamed as he said, “I was disappointed to lose yesterday’s game, but it feels good to win today.”
Wearing a catcher’s mask from the first inning, Kim led the NC pitching staff with a stable lead until he was replaced by Park Dae-on in the ninth inning. In particular, left-hander Tanner Tully, who recently joined NC as a replacement for Taylor Widener (Samsung), pitched six innings of one-hit ball, two walks, five strikeouts, and no runs in his KBO debut.
“I pitched with Tanner for the first time today, and I tried to take advantage of his strengths as much as possible,” said Kim Hyung-jun. “I think it led to a good result because I put together the data from the power analysis.”
Drafted by NC with the ninth overall pick in the 2018 second round, Hyung-Jun Kim completed his military service with the Commerce in 2021-2022. His professional first team stats through last year were .227 (260-for-22) with five home runs, 22 RBIs and a .312 on-base percentage in 159 games.
However, he has been plagued by frequent injuries lately. He underwent surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in August of last year, just before he was released. He returned in May, but was sidelined again later that month when he tore a ligament in his right ankle after stepping on a ball in training.
But Kim didn’t let these setbacks stop him. After returning from injury in July, he swung a bat in the Futures (2nd Division) League. The coaching staff, including NC C Team (NC Futures) head coach Gong Pil-sung, worked hard to revive his career.
As a result, Kim was added to the first-team roster on March 23 and has been hitting like a champ. With all of their catching options, including Park Se-hyuk (left wrist tendinitis) and Ahn Joong-yeol (right adductor tear), out with injuries, Kim’s performance has been very welcome news for NC.
“Since I was in the Futures, C team manager Gong Pil-sung encouraged me to take my swing as far as I could even if I struck out, which helped me maintain my good hitting form,” said Kim, adding that he is also grateful for the help of hitting coaches Song Ji-man and Jeon Min-soo since coming to the N team (NC’s first team).
While Kim is showing off his presence in the first team, he also wants to improve.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the first team, so I think my analysis of opposing batters is still lacking. I plan to study harder in the future.” Kim Hyung-joon said.
“I’m grateful to the fans who always support me,” he concluded, “and I’d also like to thank manager (Gong Pil-sung), coaches, and trainers for their great help in the Futures League.”안전놀이터
Kim’s blast is also good news for the South Korean national baseball team, which will compete at the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games in early October (the tournament kicks off on September 23). On June 9, while Kim was still in the midst of his rehabilitation, head coach Ryu Jung-il recognized Kim’s ability and selected him for the final roster. Especially considering that the other catcher on the roster is the inexperienced Kim Dong-heon (Kiwoom Heroes), Hyung-jun is likely to be a mainstay in Hangzhou.