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Batting cleanup is 'dream come true' for emerging slugger

All Headlines 11:08 May 12, 2016

SEOUL, May 12 (Yonhap) -- After five years in the baseball netherworld, Kim Jae-hwan of the Doosan Bears is finally enjoying a breakout season.

The 27-year-old is batting cleanup for the best team in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), and leads the team with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs in just 67 at-bats across 22 games. The home run and RBI totals are already career highs for Kim, who never played in more than 52 games in any of his five previous seasons. Kim is also slugging at a .910 clip, as 15 of his 26 hits have gone for extra bases.

"Hitting cleanup has always been my dream," Kim said. "I don't think I've hit this many homers my whole life. It's all great, but I don't want to get too caught up in numbers."

Kim is tied with Luis Jimenez of the LG Twins for the KBO lead in home runs, but Jimenez has hit those 10 home runs in 111 at-bats. Kim is also batting .388, but he hasn't made enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title.

Kim was drafted as a catcher by the Bears in 2008 but blocked by two veterans in the organization, Kim switched to first base. He still couldn't get his break and only made occasional pinch-hit appearances.

He even failed a doping test in October 2011 and was suspended for 10 games in 2012.

Kim said his travails over the years have given him a fresh perspective and have taught him the value of staying in the moment.

"Until last year, I was constantly under pressure to perform, and I lost confidence because I made a lot of mistakes at the plate and on the field," he said. "But now, I am trying not to worry about every at-bat. I only think about facing the pitcher."

In terms of hitting techniques, Kim said he has moved his contact point forward, and he's been able to drive the ball with more authority that way.

"I'd always thought about doing it but never started executing it consistently until this year," he said. "I decided I'd give it a try in spring training with no regrets no matter how it'd turn out."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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