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Baseball club's new captain happy to be biggest cheerleader in dugout

All Headlines 16:02 January 15, 2019

SEOUL, Jan. 15 (Yonhap) -- Having been named the new captain of his Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club, LG Twins outfielder Kim Hyun-soo said Tuesday he won't just be leading with his action on and off the field.

He'll continue to be the loudest man in the dugout, win or lose.

The 31-year-old veteran signed with the Twins in December 2017, ending a two-year major league stint split with the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies.

The perennial All-Star had spent his first 10 KBO seasons with the Doosan Bears, the Twins' co-tenants at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. But he fit right into the Twins and quickly emerged as a vocal leader in his first season.

Kim was often the biggest cheerleader in the dugout, also serving as the voice of encouragement during losses.

And he had to do plenty of that, as the Twins vastly underachieved with a record of 68-75-1 (wins-losses-ties) last year. They finished in eighth place among 10 clubs and 1.5 games out of the wild-card spot.

Kim Hyun-soo of the LG Twins speaks to reporters at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul on Jan. 15, 2019, after being named the new captain of the Korea Baseball Organization club. (Yonhap)

In his first meeting with reporters after becoming the captain, Kim said he wants to set a positive tone in the club house.

"I hope the players will no longer hang their heads after every loss," Kim said at Jamsil Stadium. "If we can get just one player to keep talking in the dugout, it will boost the team morale. I will be that guy."

Though the Twins missed the postseason, Kim did his part at the plate. He won his second career batting title with a .362 average, while hitting 20 home runs and knocking in 101 runs.

Still, Kim said it was a hugely disappointing season because he missed the last month or so of the season with an ankle injury.

Kim, a natural outfielder who has spent some time at first base, injured his ankle while playing the new position on Sept. 4 and didn't return again the rest of the season. The Twins were still in fifth place when Kim went down but finished the season three spots below.

Kim charged a high chopper and got down to a squat position to field the ball. As he tried to get up, Kim lost his balance and rolled his right ankle.

"I did something that I would normally do as an outfielder and ended up hurting my ankle," Kim said. "I'd never been injured so badly before in my career. I knew I was going to play first base that day, and I wasn't prepared for it. We ended up missing the postseason, and it was devastating."

In this file photo from Aug. 10, 2018, Kim Hyun-soo of the LG Twins hits an RBI groundout against the Samsung Lions in the bottom of the eighth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Kim also became a subject of derision after winning the batting title. There were those who felt Kim didn't deserve it because he only played in 117 of 144 games, though he still had enough at-bats to qualify.

"I was hoping someone else would become the batting champion," Kim said. "It's not like I was sitting out games on purpose. It was stressful to hear those comments."

In addition to Kim's absence down the stretch, the fact that the Twins were just 1-15 against the Bears didn't help their playoff aspirations.

The Twins eked out that lone win in the two teams' final meeting of the season on Oct. 6. Kim said the players shouldn't put too much pressure on themselves when playing the Bears.

"Strictly speaking, we can't really be considered Doosan's rivals," Kim said of the team that ran away with the regular season title in 2018. "So I am going to tell the guys we have to live with that. I think the pressure will be on the Bears this year."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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