“I want to say thank you to our (Kang) Jung-ho.”

Doosan Bears center fielder Yang Ji-hye (37) welcomed the resurgence of junior and team’s No. 4 hitter Kim Jae-hwan (36). Yang hit the game-winning three-run homer in a 7-3 come-from-behind victory over the Hanwha Eagles in the 2024 Shinhan SOL Bank KBO League at Jamsil Stadium on Tuesday. On the 9th, Kim Jae-hwan hit a come-from-behind three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to lead the Hanwha Eagles to a 5-3 victory, and on the 10th, Yang Ji came through with the game-winning hit. The picture that Doosan wanted most – Kim Jae-hwan and Yang Ji-ji exploding at the same time – is finally coming together.

Yang Ji mentioned his friend and former major leaguer Kang Jeong-ho when talking about the game-winning home run. Since his retirement, Kang has been teaching hitting lessons in the U.S., and his business began to go viral among professional players last year when NC Dinos’ Son As-seob won his first batting title (.339) after taking lessons from Kang.

Kim Jae-hwan had his worst season last year. He batted just .220 (89-for-405) with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs in 132 games, his lowest total since making the jump to the main roster in 2016. His on-base percentage was just .331. Considering that in 2018, his MVP season, he hit 44 home runs and had a .657 on-base percentage, you can see how bad he was last year.

He had to create his own opportunity to rebound. Kim joined the Icheon offseason camp as soon as the season ended and worked one-on-one with Doosan manager Lee Seung-yeop. Lee didn’t emphasize anything in particular. He had him repeat the basics over and over again so that he could start over with a clean slate. After three weeks of basic batting practice, he found his way to Jung-ho Kang’s batting lessons in the United States.

Kim Jae-hwan was in the U.S. for about a month and expressed his satisfaction with the lessons he received from Kang Jeong-ho. Of course, for a player who peaked in the KBO, one small piece of advice could have been the start of a big change.

“I think I used to think a lot about ‘where to hit’ when I was in my bedroom. I felt like I couldn’t see the space. If I go to the outfield, I think I’ll get caught in front of the fence, and the outfielders are behind me. If I hit it short, it’s all caught (by the defense shift), and I think I had a lot of bad thoughts.” Reflecting on his difficult season, he added, “If you talk about the six years until last year, the first three years were different from the last three years. I was able to feel that I have changed, I used to be like this, but I could feel this,” he said of his visit to Kang Jeong-ho.

Thanks to him, Kim Jae-hwan is currently enjoying a resurgence. He went 1-for-4 on the day, dropping his season batting average to .298 from .302, but he’s been a workhorse with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 15 games.

Yang said, “First of all, it’s really nice to see (Kim) come out and play baseball and be really bright. He was struggling last year, and we talked about it a lot, but I hope he can do better and hit more than 30 home runs this year, and I want to say thank you to Jeong-ho,” he laughed.

“We didn’t really talk about baseball, we just talked about how we were doing, and it was a little sad. I didn’t really talk about baseball, I just told him that I 토토 was fine, but I felt a little bit sorry for him, because from the side, he really comes out and works out even on his days off, and now he’s having some bad results, and now he’s having some good results, and when it’s crucial, he hits another nice home run like he used to, so I think it’s good for the team morale.”

Yang also came through for Kim Jae-hwan in a big way on the day. Trailing 0-2 in the bottom of the first inning after back-to-back singles by Jeong Soo-bin and Heo Kyung-min, Yang smashed a three-run homer to left field with runners on first and second to make it 3-2. It was the big blow that set the stage for the comeback victory, and it was also the decisive blow that knocked Hanwha starter Moon Dong-joo out of the game after just 3⅓ innings (six runs).

Yang Ji said, “We came home with bad results in our last away games (1-5 in three games against Incheon SSG and three games against Sasik Lotte). I think the manager, coaching staff, and players set the tone well, and we were able to handle the tough games well, which led to the winning streak. “He’s a really good pitcher and he’s got a fastball, so I tried to hit it aggressively because I thought it would be hard to hit if I was at a disadvantage, but (the bat) got lucky on the way out and I think it was a home run.

Yang’s hitting was hampered by a hamstring injury early in the season, but he’s back on an upward curve now. “In the first two games in Incheon, I was worried because I couldn’t see the ball too much. From the second game of Sajik, I started to get my balance and timing right, so I think I started to see the ball a little bit,” he said, adding that he is optimistic about his current hitting.

In addition to leading the batting lineup with Kim Jae-hwan, Yang is also fulfilling his duties as a catcher to lead the young pitchers. The frequent close games have been a challenge for the young bullpen pitchers, but it’s a process they’re working through.

“I don’t think young players have done it anyway, and I think it’s an experience. I tell them that they have to get over this hump to become a good player, and if they do, they get paid a lot of money. Then they study and prepare, and I think the pitchers are getting better with each game.”

Doosan will look for its first home sweep of the season on Nov. 11. They’ll have their ace Ryu Hyun-jin on the mound. Ryu has just two losses in three games this season, so he’ll be hungry for a win.

“We can only do our best,” Yang said, “I think (Ryu) Hyun-jin is frustrated, but it’s not about him right now, it’s about our team (laughs). Our team has to play well now. We need to turn the minus (win-loss margin) into a plus as soon as possible,” he said.

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