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KBO doormat Hanwha Eagles name veteran Kim Sung-keun as new manager

All Headlines 22:40 October 25, 2014

SEOUL, Oct. 25 (Yonhap) -- The Hanwha Eagles, a perennial doormat in South Korea's pro baseball, announced the appointment of veteran Kim Sung-keun as their new manager on Saturday, hoping that his championship pedigree can help improve their fortunes.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club said Kim, 71, has signed for three years, with an annual salary of 500 million won (US$473,000) and another 500 million won in signing bonus. He replaces Kim Euong-yong, who wasn't retained by the Eagles after his two-year deal ran out at the end of the regular season.

Kim Sung-keun has won three KBO championships in his managerial career,in 2007, 2008 and 2010, all of them with the SK Wyverns.

The Eagles, which finished dead last among nine KBO teams for the second straight year in 2014, are the third club in the past week to name a new manager for next season.

All five non-playoff teams this season will have a new skipper next year. The Wyverns and the Doosan Bears have already appointed new managers, while the positions for the Kia Tigers and the Lotte Giants remain vacant.

The Eagles said they will formally introduce their new manager at a ceremony on Tuesday in Daejeon, their home city about 160 kilometers south of Seoul.

"I'd like to thank Hanwha from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity," Kim said through the club. "I will try my best not to let fans down and transform Hanwha into a strong ball club."

Kim, famously dubbed "God of Baseball" for his tactical acumen, has long made a career out of turning underachieving teams into contenders, and the Eagles will be hoping he will still have tricks left in his bag at age 71.

The Eagles last appeared in the postseason in 2007. They have been the KBO's worst club in four of the past five seasons.

Kim made his KBO managerial debut with the OB (currently Doosan) Bears in 1984, and worked with the team for five years before moving on to the now-defunct Taepyungyang Dolphins in 1989. The Dolphins, then the 1980s equivalent of the Eagles today, made the first postseason in team history in Kim's first year, going from last place to third place in the regular season.

He later took over an expansion Ssangbangwool Raiders in 1996 and led them to the second-best record in the regular season, a year after they had the worst record.

Kim took the LG Twins to the championship Korean Series in 2002, where they lost to the Samsung Lions in six games. He went on to coach in Japan before returning to the KBO with the Wyverns in 2007.

The Wyverns won the Korean Series in Kim's first season and defended their title in 2008. The Wyverns lost to the Tigers in seven games in 2009 but came back to win their third championship in four seasons in 2010.

Often abrasive and opinionated, Kim has often had clashes with the front office. It was his differences with the Wyverns' management that led to his abrupt dismissal in the middle of the 2011 season.

In August that year, Kim announced he'd leave the team after the end of the season. The Wyverns then sacked him the following day.

Kim turned his eyes toward talent development. He became the inaugural manager of the Goyang Wonders, the country's first independent ball club, in December 2011, and 23 players would go on to sign with KBO teams on Kim's watch.

When the Wonders disbanded last month, leaving Kim again unemployed, the veteran manager's potential destination quickly became a hot potato.

The long-suffering Eagles' fans began pushing the club to pursue Kim as the new manager. They started an online petition and took turns in staging one-person protest outside Hanwha's headquarters in Seoul.

Kim said he didn't receive any managerial offer until the Eagles called him on Friday to set up a meeting. Kim and the Eagles' president Chung Seung-jin met earlier on Saturday, and Kim agreed to become the Eagles' new manager.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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