“I told you not to hit that hard…” From death to a side injury, bad luck doesn’t have to be this bad.
KT batsman Kang Baek-ho, 24, started his sixth professional season with controversy and ended it with injury. For Kang, 2023 was a year of bad luck.
He was unable to participate in fall baseball due to an injury. Kang Baek-ho started as the No. 5 designated hitter for the ‘Dori Team,’ which consisted of the main players of the team, in their own blue-and-white game in preparation for the playoffs at KT Wiz Park in Suwon on Nov. 26, and suffered an unexpected injury in his first at-bat.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the second inning, Kang felt something in his right side after being hit by a foul pitch from opposing starter Wes Benjamin. He immediately left the game and headed to a nearby hospital for a full examination, where he was diagnosed with a three-week rehabilitation for a right adductor muscle injury.
After the game, KT head coach Lee Kang-cheol was pleased that his starters, including Ko Young-pyo and Wes Benjamin, had regained their senses, but he was disappointed that Kang Baek-ho was unable to play due to a tear in his side.
The 2018 KT Secondary First Round pick had a rocky start to his sixth professional season. The 2023 World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March was the beginning of his misfortune. In the first game of the tournament against Australia, which was considered a watershed moment for the team to reach the quarterfinals, Kang sparked national outrage with a so-called “serenade”. After hitting a double, 먹튀검증토토사이트 Kang made a gesture toward the third base dugout during an in-play situation, but his foot momentarily left the second base and he was tagged out by the second baseman’s glove.
Kang’s unprofessional behavior threw a wrench into the chase, and he became the butt of jokes around the world after the game. Major sports media outlets around the world posted the video on social media with the theme “This is what the world looks like. South Korea was knocked out in the first round of the World Baseball Classic after failing to overcome the shock of the loss to Australia, and Kang Baek-ho became the center of criticism.
Just two months after his controversial ceremony, Kang Baek-ho disappointed baseball fans with another boneheaded play. It was the bottom of the fifth inning of a game against LG Electronics in Jamsil on May 18. With KT leading 3-2, starter Ko Young-pyo gave up a leadoff single to Park Hae-min, and then Kim Hyun-soo followed with a single to right. Kang Baek-ho, playing right field, caught Kim Hyun-soo’s throw, and Park Hae-min used his quick feet to steal second base and reach third.
With runners on first and third, it was Park who scored. Expecting Park to stop at third base, Kang Baek-ho took the pitch and slowly walked out of the batter’s box, sending a high parabolic throw to second baseman Jang Jun-won. Jang Jun-won, who was late to catch Kang Baek-ho’s arcing throw, looked toward home, but Park Hae-min had already scored. It was a heartbreaking 3-3 tie.
Park Hae-min told reporters on the field, “I always try to go for one more base when I play the infield. If I see a gap, I try to take advantage of it,” he said. “I stepped on third base and overran, but (Kang) Baek-ho walked in and tried to throw. I didn’t feel like he was going to throw hard, and he was loose, so I just ran. I knew it was going to be a close game at home, so I made a bold play,” he said. His laziness was clearly visible to his opponent.
Kang eventually complained of extreme mental stress and took a break from playing in June and August. He stayed at home and focused on his physical and mental recovery.
He recovered and returned to the first team on September 5. He batted 3-for-3 in the month of September, marking the return of a genius hitter. He then headed to the Hangzhou Asian Games, where he won the coveted gold medal and finally put a smile on his face. With his mental illness cured, he prepared for the postseason with more enthusiasm than any other athlete, dreaming of a second championship ring.
But he was overprepared. He tore up his side in a blue-and-white scrimmage, taking a full swing as hard as he could in practice. “I told him not to hit that hard, but…” Lee said, trailing off.
The KBO postseason, which begins with the first round of the best-of-five playoffs on April 30, will last up to Game 7 of the best-of-seven Korean Series on April 15.
Even if KT defeats NC and advances to the Korean Series, Kang won’t be able to play in the fall. November 16 will mark exactly three weeks since he was injured. That’s how Kang Baek-ho’s unfortunate 2023 season ended with a sad ending.
Meanwhile, the unexpected departure of core powerhouse Kang Baek-ho forced KT to change its plans just four days before the big day. “I think we’ll have to rebuild our playoff roster,” Lee sighed.