LG manager Yi Kyung-yup, 55, who got his start as a manager at Nexen (now Kiwoom) more than a decade ago, tried something unconventional. Even before the start of spring training, he decided who would be the starter and backup, and who would be the reliever. Usually, camps create a system of endless competition, but Yeom’s approach was different. He assigned clear roles and responsibilities to each player in preparation for the season.
Park Dong-won, 33, was the new starting catcher. He had only played seven games in the first team in 2010 and was a rookie who had just retired from commerce. 먹튀검증 Although he was expected to be a promising prospect, it was an unconventional move to make him a starter right away. “I saw his potential and vision as a catcher. He has a good bat. He has a sincere and active mentality,” he said of Park.
Yeom was right on the money. Park went through growing pains in 2013, but by the middle of the 2014 season, his potential was realized and he became the starting catcher. Yeom left Nexen in 2016, but Park continued to gain experience and grow. After being traded to KIA in April of last year, he improved his competitiveness as a full-time starting catcher and hit the free agent jackpot by signing a four-year, 6.5 billion won contract with LG.
Prior to Park’s arrival, LG appointed Yeom as its new head coach.
A decade after their first managerial and player encounters at Nexen in 2013, the two are starting over side by side at LG. Neither Yeom nor Park had ever won a Korean Series title, and they reunited at LG with a common goal.
At the Arizona spring training in February, Park said, “Ten years ago, I was not good enough in many ways, and I was scolded a lot by the manager. I was too young and didn’t know much, so I was scolded.” Looking back, he said, “It’s a shame that I’m working with the coach again after seven years. He told me important points during practice. I studied a lot, but I wish I had listened to what he said sooner. I feel like we need to be on the same page to have a synergistic effect.”
Park played 130 games this season, batting .244 with 102 hits in 409 at-bats, 20 home runs, 75 RBIs, and a .777 OPS, helping LG win the regular season title. Although his batting pace slowed down in the second half of the season, he still had enough power to lead the league in home runs through mid-June. He also anchored the defense, leading the team in ERA (3.67). Coach Yoon praised Park’s defense, saying, “His blocking is the best among Korean catchers.”
In the Korean Series, Park also shined at crucial moments.
Game 2 of the Korean Series was held at Jamsil Stadium on April 8. In the bottom of the eighth inning with LG trailing 3-4, Park took advantage of a fastball from KT reliever Park Young-hyun, who hadn’t allowed a run in six innings in five games this postseason. He lined a 124-kilometer changeup right down the middle and pulled it over the left-center field fence.
The moment he hit it, he knew it was a home run. It traveled 122.3 meters at 166 kilometers per hour. The final home run, a 5-4 LG victory, turned Jamsil Stadium upside down. Park threw his bat high in the air as he made his way to first base, and after crossing the plate, he hugged coach Yoon, who welcomed him with open arms from the dugout.
It was a cliffhanger for Yeom, who had lost Game 1 and was facing a difficult Game 2.
Historically, a team that loses the first two games of a Korean Series has only a 10 percent (2/20) chance of winning. However, a single hit by Park Dong-won, the “protégé,” saved Yeom and LG.
In a postgame interview, Yeom said, “At the most important moment, (Park) Dong-won hit the game-winning home run. It’s not just a one-run win. “Just as the fans were chanting, the players were chanting ‘Park Dong-won, Park Dong-won’ in the dugout. Our players are more hungry and desperate to win now than ever before. We were able to win because of that desperation.”
“When I stepped into the batter’s box, I looked at the third baseman. I thought about laying down a surprise bunt to help the team somehow, but I hit it well,” he laughed, adding, “The opposing pitcher (Park Young-hyun) had a good pitch, so I thought I shouldn’t be late, but my swing came out well. After the home run, I felt so exhilarated. I got hit a lot (by players in the dugout), and I felt like I was going to cry because I was so happy. I was screaming a lot, so I think I had a few tears in my eyes,” he said, unable to contain his joy.