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KBO skipper to Choo Shin-soo: 'Just be yourself'

Sports 09:18 March 04, 2021

SEOGWIPO, South Korea, March 4 (Yonhap) -- Even before managing his first regular season game, SK Wyverns' new skipper Kim Won-hyong has already gone through a dizzying roller-coaster ride.

For one, his team will no longer be called the SK Wyverns after this week. Shinsegae Group's E-Mart purchased the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club from SK Telecom, and the new name is expected to be unveiled Friday. The abrupt decision by SK Telecom to sell off the team, which Kim learned through media, represented a low point.

Kim Won-hyong, manager of the Korea Baseball Organization club owned by Shinsegae Group, poses for a photo after an interview with Yonhap News Agency at Kang Chang-hak Baseball Stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, on March 4, 2021. (Yonhap)

A high came in just as unexpectedly, with the club's signing of former major league All-Star outfielder Choo Shin-soo. One of the most successful Asian-born hitters in big league history, Choo, 38, brings instant credibility to the club undergoing the ownership change just weeks before the start of the season.

Asked Thursday about his expectations for Choo, Kim said the player won't have to try to do too much.

"I think Choo's presence alone will set a good example," Kim said at Kang Chang-hak Baseball Stadium on Jeju Island, site of his team's spring training. "He should just keep doing what he's been doing all along. I won't ask him to do anything special."

Kim also spoke highly of Choo's well-known work ethic.

"I know he always takes great care of himself. It's incredible how he's been able to sustain that level of play at his age," the manager said. "I think our young players will learn from Choo and his routines."

In this file photo from Feb. 1, 2021, members of the SK Wyverns train at Kang Chang-hak Stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, during spring training. (Yonhap)

Before acquiring Choo, the Wyverns landed free agent infielder Choi Joo-hwan to bolster their offense. Also, an outfielder formerly known as Han Dong-min legally changed his name to Han You-some, hoping he'll get a fresh start after a disappointing two-year stretch.

If Han can recapture his form from 2018, when he set career highs with 41 homers and 115 RBIs, and Choo and Choi produce at their usual levels, Kim's ballclub should have little trouble putting runs on the board.

The manager, though, is a bit concerned about his pitching depth.

"I think we need to strengthen our pitching staff," Kim said. "But our two new foreign pitchers have both looked great so far. Wilmer Font throws a heavy fastball, and I expect him to be one of the best pitchers in this league. Artie Lewicki has great command of all of his pitches."

Choo Shin-soo of the Korea Baseball Organization club owned by Shinsegae Group poses in his new club's temporary jersey after arriving at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Feb. 25, 2021. (Yonhap)


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