Kiwoom Heroes’ main players in the “post-Lee Jung-hoo” era are gradually revealing their outline.
Kiwoom will leave for Arizona, the U.S., through Incheon International Airport on the 29th and begin full-fledged training on February 1st after adapting to the local area. The venue will stay at Salt River at Talking Stick Stadium in Scottsdale, which was shared with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Major League last year, until February 14.
The concept of the upcoming Kiwoom U.S. spring camp is a small number of elite players. With rookies not all included in 2024, the U.S. spring camp has a large number of players that coach Hong Won-ki wants to check out in person from the first team. Meanwhile, Kim Hui-jip (22) has been included in the seven members of the starting lineup, including Lee Ju-hyung (23) and Song Seong-moon (28), and has been confirmed to have left for the U.S. first last week to quickly adapt to the local situation.
Kiwoom’s batting lineup, which left Lee Jung-hoo, is facing new challenges. On top of that, even captain Kim Hye-sung (25) has declared his challenge to the Major League after this season, putting Kiwoom in a position to find a new focal point. The team has gained time for young players to grow. The aggressive collection of veterans over the past two years has created an environment for promising players to play without being pressured by sexual stress. Lee Yong-kyu (39), Lee Hyung-jong (35), foreign player Ronnie Dawson (29), Lee Won-seok (38), Choi Joo-hwan (36), Song Seong-moon and Lim Ji-yeol (29) are expected to take the center stage in the infield.
Kim Hwi-jip is considered one of the candidates to lead the post-Lee Jung-hoo era along with Lee Ju-hyung. Kim Hwi-jip, who joined Kiwoom as ninth in the first round of the second KBO rookie draft in 2021, appeared in the first division from his first year of debut, steadily increasing the number of at-bats every year. In his third year as a professional, last year was a year when he further grew by wearing his first national flag. He had a batting average of 0.249 (92 hits in 369 at-bats), eight homers and 51 RBIs, 46 runs scored, and an on-base percentage of 0.338 slugging percentage, and had a career-high season in major batting indicators, including a sharp increase in double to 22. He was one of the few Kiwoom players to draw a right-leaning graph from his debut season along with Lee Jung-hoo (26, San Francisco Giants) and Kim Hye-sung (25).헤라카지노도메인
Kiwoom’s Kim Hwi-jip is shooting a home run against Kazuto Taguchi in the top of the ninth inning in the second full league match of the 2023 APBC qualifying round against Japan at Tokyo Dome in Japan last year.
He joined the national team for the first time at the 2023 Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC) held in Tokyo, Japan in November last year, based on his outstanding slugging capability and growth at the same age. At the championship, Kim was not given a chance to play against Australia until the first game, as he was pushed by outstanding teammates such as Kim Hye-sung and Kim Joo-won (22, NC Dinos). However, he garnered a lot of attention when he hit a solo shot over the left wall (lost 1-2) to prevent Korea from losing the first game (with two outs) in the top of the ninth inning of the second game against Japan. Kim’s home run was the only arch that the Korean team hit at the APBC, and the opposing pitcher was Kazuto Taguchi (29, Yakult Swallows), a top-ranked finishing pitcher of the Japanese professional baseball who has allowed only two home runs in 84 ⅓ innings in the last two years.
Since then, he played in matches against Taiwan and the finals against Japan, and was recognized as a promising player to lead Kiwoom’s infield after Kim Hye-sung due to his impressive performance. His elevated status was also confirmed in the recently concluded 2024 salary negotiations. In recognition of his team’s record of the most home runs last season, Kim earned 110 million won (approx. He is the youngest among Kiwoom’s billion-dollar annual salary.
This is Kim Hwi-jip, who was most impressed by the batting approach of Japanese players at the APBC. “Through this competition, I felt that my No. 1 task was not to over-swing,” Kim said when meeting with APBC upon returning to Korea. “Japanese batters basically have good contact skills, but I was impressed by their ability to make in-play hits with just one swing without unnecessary movements.”
“I am pursuing that style, which helped me a lot. I refer to Tetsuto Yamada (32, Yakult) and Seiya Suzuki (30, Chicago Cubs) in relation to batting approaches, but seeing that they are training for the Japanese national team this time, Shugo Maki (26, Yokohama BayStars) was noticeable. I learned a lot from him, not to mention his good use of the head part of the bat, but also his tee batting,” he added.
Following his elder brother Kim Hye-sung, whom he admires, Kim also started managing his own diet. “I copied Kim Hye-sung when I first joined the club, and I realized that his diet (which excludes carbohydrates) did not suit me,” Kim said. “Instead, I studied sports nutrition and looked for a diet suitable for baseball last winter (2022), and found out what would be helpful for me.”
“For example, during the season, I eat only three meals that I want to eat Sunday dinner, Monday lunch, and dinner, and I never eat fried food, late night snacks, caffeine, bread, and cakes from Tuesday to Sunday lunch. One of the things I want to praise myself last year was keeping all the promises I made during the season,” he said.
When we met again two months later at the Gocheok Sky Dome, Kim’s mindset remained unchanged. “I’m continuing what I planned then (November last year) well,” Kim Hwi-jip said after coming to the Gocheok Dome with Song Sung-moon and others before departure. “Actually, the end of last season is the new year for me, so even if it’s 2024, there won’t be much difference,” he said. “(Song) Sung-moon is leading the mood well. As he is a hardworking brother, I am naturally determined to continue the tradition of working hard to my juniors while learning from him.”
The U.S. spring camp is an opportunity for Kim to establish what he learned over the past two months. He is also busy embodying what he learned from the spring camp in Taiwan, where he had many practice matches with local teams. “Currently, I am increasing the amount of technical training to be faithful to the basics. I have tried to change what I wanted to during the off-season up to spring camp, and I am trying not to make any changes after returning to Korea,” Kim stressed