A catching prospect who dreamed of making it to the major leagues was forced to leave the United States after failing to blossom, so he put his baseball career on the line and made a change. He left behind his longtime home plate and took the mound, and it started with the KBO’s 150th save.
KT Wiz closer Kim Jae-yoon, 33, pitched the final inning of the 2023 Shinhan Bank SOL KBO League against the Kiwoom Heroes at Gocheok Sky Dome on Nov. 11. He took the mound to close out the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with his team leading 4-2 and retired Song Sung-moon (foul fly to the catcher), Kim Soo-hwan (groundout), and Joo Sung-won (groundout to third base) in order to preserve the win. It was his 13th save of the season and 150th of his career.
Kim Jae-yoon was a promising catching prospect during his time at Humungo. He competed in the 2008 World Youth Baseball Championship in Edmonton, where he played every game at catcher and helped lead his teammates, including Heo Kyung-min (33, Dusan Bears) and Ahn Chi-hong (33, Lotte Giants), to the championship. After showing his potential at the world championships, Kim signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009 to play in the big leagues.
He flew to the United States with high hopes, but the reality was not so easy. He started in the Rookie League in his first year, moved up to Single-A the following year, and then to High Single-A, but eventually found the barriers of American baseball too high. He left the United States at the end of the 2012 season and returned to Korea after batting .211 (92-for-435) with nine home runs, 39 RBIs, and a .584 OPS in 129 minor league games.
After resolving his military issues, Kim Jae-yoon made his KBO debut in 2015 with a special designation from KT. He switched positions, using his strengths as a catcher, battling opposing hitters, and strong shoulders. It was the challenge of a lifetime.
As it turned out, he developed into a top-notch closer with 150 career saves. From 2016, his second season in the KBO, to 2019, he consistently posted double-digit saves in all but one season, developing into a team’s go-to guy and franchise star. This season, he is still going strong with 13 saves and a 1.65 ERA in 32⅔ innings.바카라사이트
After the game, Kim reflected on the milestone, saying, “When I saw the last out at first base for my 150th save, all the moments since I joined the team passed by like a lantern.”
“It doesn’t hurt that it’s a cumulative record, but it’s even more valuable because I know that it can only be achieved by showing steady performance and appearance, and I’m happy that my cumulative record as a closer means that I’ve protected the team’s victories,” he said.
The closer’s job is a very lonely one, as it’s essential to keep the team in the game. The team’s success depends on every pitch. If a mistake is made, the team loses, and the fans and teammates lose.
Kim Jae-yoon says, “The position of a closer is very stressful, but the feeling of securing a win is indescribable. I’m going to try to continue to feel that exhilaration.”
The win snapped the team’s four-game losing streak and allowed them to celebrate KT coach Lee Kang-cheol’s 57th birthday. “Today is the coach’s birthday and the last series of the first half, so we wanted to reward him with a win. We were able to focus more and congratulate him again on his birthday,” said Kim Jae-yoon.