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Hard-luck batter relieved to get 1st hit in KBO

All News 17:37 April 29, 2020

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- When he connected for a deep fly ball to center field during a preseason ball game Wednesday, the ball felt good off the bat for Taylor Motter.

But just as quickly, the new foreign hitter for the Kiwoom Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) felt resigned to his fate. He'd gone 0-for-8 in four previous games and 0-for-2 to start Wednesday's contest against the Doosan Bears. What were the odds that this one would fall for a hit?

Taylor Motter of the Kiwoom Heroes hits a double against the Doosan Bears in a Korea Baseball Organization preseason game at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on April 29, 2020 (Yonhap)

"The way the game's been going for me, (I felt) it was going to be an out," Motter said. "(My initial reaction was) that the fielder was going to catch it."

Thankfully for Motter, it went for a double. It was Motter's first official hit in the KBO. It came in the bottom of the fifth inning at Gocheok Sky Dome, when the Heroes were comfortably up 8-0. There were no runners on base, but the bench still erupted as if Motter had knocked in a key run. Manager Son Hyuk, in particular, broke into a huge smile, bigger than the one he had when cleanup Park Byung-ho belted a two-run home run in the third inning.

"It's a huge weight lifted off my shoulders," Motter said. "To finally get that first hit was big."

Motter is replacing slugger Jerry Sands in the lineup. Sands led the KBO with 113 RBIs last year and then signed with the Japanese club Hanshin Tigers over the offseason. Realistically, Motter, who's long been a utility man, is unlikely to match Sands' offensive production. That Motter is the lowest-paid foreign player this season at US$350,000 perhaps reflects the level of Kiwoom's own expectations.

Motter does bring some defensive versatility. This preseason alone, he's already played third base, left field and second base.

"Most of my innings in America have been at shortstop. But I've been a utility player for six, seven years," he said. "Everywhere is okay with me. I feel like defense is one of the best things I bring to the table. Anywhere they put me, I am hoping to be the best on the field at that position."

Motter's struggles at the plate may be attributed to the fact that he's facing new pitchers every game. His first opposing pitcher was SK Wyverns submariner Park Jong-hun, and in his next game, Motter went up against soft-tossing Doosan left-hander Yoo Hee-kwan.

Taylor Motter of the Kiwoom Heroes celebrates a double against the Doosan Bears in a Korea Baseball Organization preseason game at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul on April 29, 2020 (Yonhap)

Most KBO pitchers don't throw as hard as the pitchers Motter had been facing in the United States, and Motter admitted it's going to take some adjustments.

His double in Wednesday's game came against reliever Lee Dong-won, who can touch 154 kilometers per hour with his fastball and is one of the hardest throwers here.

Asked if Lee's velocity made it easier for him to hit, Motter quipped, "I just got lucky."

The regular season will begin next Tuesday, leaving Motter with precious little time to get his timing down at the plate. He said he's going to be just fine.

"I am just going to keep doing what I've been doing," he said. "I've got my body where it needs to be. I feel comfortable in the box. I feel like my practice has been really good."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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