“He’s a genius…”

Lotte manager Kim Tae-hyung (57), who made a name for himself as a master catcher during his playing days, praised the play of Kang Baek-ho (25-KT Wiz), a seventh-year professional catcher.

Kang’s spectacular laser shot came in the previous day’s game against Sasik KT-Lotte. It was the bottom of the eighth inning with Lotte leading 4-3. Choi Hang-hang, the leadoff hitter, drew a walk against KT pitcher Lee Chae-ho. At this point, KT replaced the pitcher with Joo Kwon. Against Joo, Lee Jung-geun calmly laid down a sacrifice bunt in front of the pitcher, sending Choi to second base.

The next batter was Lee Hak-joo. First pitch strike. The second pitch was a ball. The third pitch was a wild swing. And the fourth. Joo crushed one (a 145-kilometer fastball) on a high course outside. The catcher stood up and didn’t catch it, but it was a pitch out. Choi Hang was a long way from second base at the time, and when Lee Hak-joo didn’t make the play, he hastily tried to run back to second, but Kang Baek-ho, who didn’t miss it, wasted no time in sending a laser toward second base. It was a perfectly timed throw, to the perfect place, and a perfect stop. The result was an out. At a moment when the momentum could have easily shifted in KT’s favor, Lotte still managed to hold on to their one-run lead and win the game.

Kim Tae-hyung, who made a name for himself as a defensive legend catcher during his playing days, is a big fan of Kang Baek-ho. Kim immediately praised him as a “genius.” He said, “Of course, there are some things that are not perfect, but he blocks all the blocks. It’s a little bit, but it’s not easy to see that he hasn’t played catcher before and is doing it now.” Then, in his characteristic way, Kim said, “He’s a real catcher. It’s amazing. His style is like that,” he said in admiration.

Kang Baek-ho played catcher at Seoul High School. He made his professional debut in 2018 and has played as a designated hitter, first baseman, and outfielder for the past six seasons. He’s worn a surprise mask in the middle of games when teams have used up their catcher roster in an emergency, but this is the first time he’s started a game this season. And yet, he’s showing that he’s capable of playing in a professional game, not just fumbling around.

“Some of it comes from training and game sense issues (like tagging), but even a player who has been playing catcher for a long time can have a mental breakdown when the team is struggling or when he gets hit. It’s really tough…. If he was stressed out, the team wouldn’t ask him to play catcher, but since he’s playing so well, they’ll have to use him to the fullest in their batting order.”

“It was unreasonable. I was watching the game from inside (after the ejection), and I saw him trying to throw to second base once, and then I saw him sitting down and getting ready to throw to second base again. The runner should have seen that,” he said, adding, “I think Choi Hang also made that play because he was 스포츠토토 trying to get in when he hit, but how does he throw the ball so amazingly?” He repeatedly marveled.

Lee Kang-cheol, the team’s head coach, was equally enamored with Kang’s performance. “We need to win with the bat (offense) now,” Lee told reporters after the rainout was canceled on Tuesday. Also, Jang Sung-woo still needs to rest at least once a week. So we have no choice but to sacrifice and use (catcher) Kang Baek-ho when the rookie pitcher goes out, and we’re making one or two mistakes right now, but we have to look at the long view.” The calculation is that by using Kang Baek-ho as a catcher instead of a designated hitter, the team can maximize its offense while putting another hitter in the leadoff spot.

“Wow, he suddenly throws to second base, and our team did this? I have never caught a runner while pitching out before. In fact, shortstop (Kim) Sang-soo told me that Kang Baek-ho’s throw was fast, so he gave me a sign to try it.” “Yesterday, I was trying to write a diary (laughs),” he said, adding, “I’ve never pitched out in six years.

“He (Kang) was sitting down and suddenly changed his posture like this, so I thought it was a high ball sign, and then he threw to second base, but he was as fast as the other catchers,” Lee said, adding, “Until now, he hasn’t found his spot. I think he belongs there (catcher). He’s got all the catcher’s gear on, he’s got the mask on, he looks really good. In fact, (Kang) White Tiger has been walking around with his head down the whole time, but recently he started laughing when he saw the catcher. Even the seniors said, ‘Baekho, you’re best in that position,'” he said, expressing his affection.


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