“I want to grow up like Kim Jae-yoon.”
Last year, the KT Wiz called up right-handed pitcher Kang Gun, 19, from Changan District with the 110th and final pick in the 2023 KBO First-Year Player Draft. It was the first full draft in the 10-team system, and the 11th-round selection was a first for the organization. Kang became the first 110th pick in the KBO.
Kang revealed that he was nervous about not being called until the 10th round.
Speaking to MK Sports at the Futures spring training camp in Iksan, Jeollabuk-do in February, Kang said, “I was watching the draft at school. In the last round, I still didn’t hear my name called, so I thought, ‘Okay, let’s just go to college. I was thinking, ‘Yeah, let’s just go to college and fill out an application,’ and then all of a sudden my friends started screaming, and I was like, ‘Why, why, why,’ and then they told me that I was selected and congratulated me. I got a lot of calls from my high school friends that I played baseball with, as well as my friends from elementary and middle school. My parents were crying and congratulating me,” he said.
As soon as he turned pro, Kang gained about 10 kilograms. He gained strength with the ball. In high school, his fastball was up to 145 mph, but with consistent training in the Futures League, it reached 148 mph.
In 34 games in the Futures League, Kang went 1-1 with a 5.10 ERA and two saves. After receiving high praise from the Future Team, Kang-geon realized his dream of joining the first team when he officially transitioned to the roster on March 3.
KT manager Lee Kang-cheol said, “The report from the Futures team was good. They said his fastball is in the low-to-mid 140s, and his forkball and slider are good. We’ll see if we can give him a chance to pitch in a comfortable situation.”
Kang made his dream first-team debut on April 4 against the Suwon KIA Tigers. He pitched one inning of scoreless relief with one strikeout. On June 6, he pitched one inning of one-hit ball with two strikeouts against the Suwon Samsung Lions.
On the 7th, against the Hanwha Eagles in Suwon, Kang made his name known even more. As the team’s third pitcher after Kim Min and Lee Sang-dong, Kang threw three innings of one-hit ball, striking out three and walking none to preserve the win and earn his first career save.
No walks, no wild pitches. And, of course, no runs. Three games, three scoreless innings, one save. Despite his lackluster record, it’s clear that there’s a lot to look forward to in the future.
“I was told after the game that I got my first save,” Kang said through the club. I didn’t expect to pitch three innings. I’m grateful to the manager and coaches for giving me the opportunity to lead a long inning.”
On what he focused on at Futures, he said, “I tried to work on a lot of things that would work in the first team. The first is my pitches. I think the game is only as good as your pitches, so I try to work on my pitches the most and then think about the next thing. The second is my fastball, which I threw up to 148 kilometers in Futures before I was enrolled in the first team.”
There is a saying that happiness is not in order of draft position. He wasn’t there for the draft and was the last name called, but he has developed into a game-closing pitcher. On the same day as Kang’s save, Kang’s classmates were at KT Wiz Park in Suwon, where KT held its 2024 rookie orientation.메이저사이트
“Next year’s rookies came to the ballpark, and even though I was selected in the lower rounds, I think the scouts saw my potential in high school and picked me. It’s still too early to say this, but I want to tell them that if they refine their potential, they will have a chance to make the first team.”
“I’ve been pitching a lot out of the bullpen in my first year. In the future, I want to grow like Kim Jae-yoon, who throws strong balls one by one,” he said.