‘I went to Jung-ho Kang’s school, I hit a grand slam…but I’m sure I’ll be the best 25-year-old in the country’

He went to the Jung-ho Kang school. But for now, Kim Hyung-joon, 25, is the favorite to be the Dinos’ starting catcher in the regular-season opener against the KBO’s best catcher, Yang Ji-hyun (Doosan Bears).

The NC Dinos are essentially done competing for the starting job this season. The infield traffic has been cleared up by filling the foreign-born batting spot with first baseman Matt Davidson. In the outfield, the Dinos have retained Kwon Hee-dong in left field and Park Gun-woo in right field, with defensive stalwart Sung-wook Kim as their starting center fielder.

There’s one last position left. Catcher, the position that Kang Kwon-hyun played during his playing days. Veteran Park Se-hyuk (34) and rookie Kim Hyung-joon (25) are in a fierce competition. However, Kang Ki-won seems to have made up his mind. Like in the second half of the 2023 season, he is likely to give Kim the starting role.

“There are two of them, so I’m thinking about the ratio,” Kang said ahead of the Changwon Kiwoom Heroes exhibition match on Nov. 11, “but I think Kim Hyung-joon will play first.” Kang is convinced that Kim is the best catcher in the KBO among all catchers in their mid-20s.

“Kim Hyung-joon is a great catcher in all aspects: shoulder, pitcher’s lead, and leadership. He also has an advantage in hitting. He can hit long balls. He is one of the best catchers in this age group.” He has proven himself with a gold medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games and a spot in the Asian Professional Baseball Championship.

Kang believes that if the team is going to look to the future, they need to give their young and promising players like Kim Hyung-joon, shortstop Kim Joo-won, and third baseman Seo Ho-cheol a chance. Last year, he pushed Kim Joo-won into the full-time starting shortstop role with the blink of an eye, and he became the gold-medal shortstop at the Asian Games.

However, Kang didn’t say “Kim Hyung-joon=full-time catcher” in a straightforward way. That would demoralize veteran catcher Park Se-hyuk, who was signed as a free agent. Park Se-hyeok trained at Kang Jeong-ho’s school last winter and is trying to make a ‘big batting rebound’. There is also another catcher, Ahn Joong-yeol. Ahn made his presence felt against the Changwon Kiwoom Heroes on Wednesday, hitting a grand slam to left field off Oh Seok-ju in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Kang plans to utilize Park’s stability as well. “Kim Hyung-joon doesn’t have full-time experience yet. When his stamina drops, we plan to increase Park’s role. Also, Kim Hyung-joon is an injury-prone catcher. He is managing his weight well, but we have to keep an eye on him.”

In reality, Kim Hyung-joon hasn’t played full-time yet, which is a weakness that makes it difficult to gauge his pace. That’s when we plan to utilize Park Se-hyuk appropriately. Park Se-hyuk’s experience is a perfect match for Kim Hyung-joon’s weaknesses. As for Kim Hyung-joon, he can’t let his guard down.


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