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Rookie manager takes loss hard, even in preseason

All News 13:45 April 22, 2020

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, April 22 (Yonhap) -- For Son Hyuk, a first-year manager in South Korean baseball, losing his first preseason game felt like a rude wakeup call.

It's ironic to call it that in a way, because Tuesday's loss, which came as it did in a largely meaningless game, kept him up at night.

Son, the rookie skipper for the Kiwoom Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), lost his preseason debut against the SK Wyverns by 6-3. He'd been the Wyverns' pitching coach for the past two years before taking the Heroes' reins, and the loss hit him particularly hard.

Kiwoom Heroes manager Son Hyuk watches his Korea Baseball Organization's preseason game against the SK Wyverns at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on April 21, 2020. (Yonhap)

"Once I lost that game, it really hit me that I am no longer just a coach, and that I am really a manager in this league," Son said Wednesday in his pregame media availability at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. The Heroes were to face the home team Doosan Bears later in the day.

"I didn't get to sleep until late in the night, and I woke up earlier than usual," Son said. "I had so much going through my mind."

Son, a former pitcher, has had success as a pitching coach. The Wyverns won the Korean Series in 2018 on his watch, and he was the national team pitching instructor when South Korea finished in second place at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

The 46-year-old said managing is a whole new ballgame.

"Innings went by a lot quicker than I'd expected," Son said, reflecting on his first contest against an opponent after weeks of overseeing intrasquad games. "Before, I only had to worry about pitchers. But now that I am managing, there's so much more work to do, and time flew by. It would have been nicer if we'd won the game."

Son said managing scrimmages and spring training games hadn't really prepared him for the preseason.

A Korea Baseball Organization preseason game between the SK Wyverns and the Kiwoom Heroes is under way at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, on April 21, 2020. (Yonhap)

"This game certainly felt different than intrasquad games," Son said. "But at the very least, I think I've been able to broaden my perspective. I've gone from concentrating only on pitchers to seeing the whole game."

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, KBO teams had been limited to playing scrimmages for weeks until Tuesday. Son said it was nice to see SK pitchers that he'd developed and coached over the past two seasons and quipped: "Those guys pitched too well. I hope they let up the next time I see them."


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